Protection measures for Maui’s dolphins fall short

Forest & Bird welcomed the Minister for Primary Industries’ announcement to extend the set net ban on the Taranaki coast, but says the move still does not adequately protect Maui’s dolphins from the threat of extinction.

While the area included under the new set net ban is important to these dolphins, other significant areas remain completely unprotected.

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says the extended ban is an improvement, but is not as good as it should be. “The set net ban needs to be extended to all regions where these nationally-critical Maui’s dolphins are found. That includes all harbours and offshore to the 100m depth contour,” he says.

“There are fewer than 55 adult Maui’s dolphins left in the world, and gill nets are the number one threat to their survival. It’s imperative we remove the threat by adopting a ban that completely covers their habitat.”

Kevin Hackwell says the future survival of this species depends on immediate and more decisive Government action. “We need stronger measures to be implemented now, not at the end of the year after the Threat Management Plan has been reviewed.”

Kevin Hackwell says stipulating observers on commercial fishing vessels will do little to actually stop dolphins from being accidentally caught in set nets. “It’s going to force fishers to put observers on their boats, which is good. It’s a step in the right direction. But it won’t stop dolphins being killed. It will just mean that we’ll know how many we’ve caught,” he says.

Maui’s dolphins are:

·         The world’s rarest dolphin, less than 55 Maui’s dolphins over 1 year old remain

·         Found only on the west coast of the North Island

·         in significant decline, with a population decline of an estimated 90% since the introduction of set nets in the 1970s

·         slow to breed, reaching sexual maturity around 7 to 9 years

Contact: Katrina Subedar 04 801 2210 , k.subedar@forestandbird.org.nz