Endangered Maui's dolphin numbers falling

The Green Party has used the latest estimated population figures of the Maui's dolphin to call for a stop to oil and gas exploration in Taranaki. 

Recent research out of German conservation organisation NABU International has calculated that there is approximately between 43 and 47 Maui's dolphin left, and the entire subspecies could be extinct by 2029. 

Dr Barbara Maas, of NABU International, and Otago University expert Dr Liz Slooten have presented their most recent calculations of the population numbers to the International Whaling Commission at a Scientific Committee in San Diego, US, this week.

These recent population figures were calculated based on a 2010/11 estimate of 55 individuals and various methods of tracking population growth or decrease. 

Green Party conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage backed the research, and said despite the inability for researchers to do a physical head count of the subspecies, the research speaks for itself. 

"It is very robust data - this research paper shows that the Maui's are on a track to extinction." 

While the research attributed 4.5 per cent of the Maui's dolphin mortality to causes including mining, oil exploration, disease, pollution and boat strikes, the Greens reiterated that opening up areas off the Taranaki coastline for oil and gas exploration would have a disastrous effect on the marine environment. 

"Not only are dolphins and other marine mammals significantly affected by seismic survey and habitat disturbance, they are also in harm's way from a potential oil spill." 

"Of course our campaign is to have oil free seas," she said. 

With 95.5 per cent of Maui's dolphin mortality caused by fishing, Sage is calling for the New Zealand government to act urgently to protect and extend the sanctuary areas and implement measures to stop gill net fishing. 

"How embarrassing would it be for clean, green New Zealand if we let a species go extinct?" 

One of the last reported sightings of the Maui's dolphin in Taranaki was in 2009. 

 - Stuff

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