Forest & Bird said today the latest Department of Conservation figures showing the number of Maui’s dolphins have halved to 55 in the last seven years require the government to act immediately to save the species from extinction.
“We welcome the government’s announcement that it will introduce additional measures to protect Maui’s dolphins but it cannot afford to wait until after a period of consultation,” Forest & Bird’s Marine Advocate Katrina Subedar said.
“It is vital to extend the ban on set nets to cover Taranaki right now and any adjustments to the measures can be made after the consultations.”
The catastrophic decline in the number of Maui’s dolphins underscores the need for Primary Industries Minister David Carter to use his emergency powers under the Fisheries Act to extend protection measures immediately for the world’s rarest dolphin.
The Department of Conservation has released a report showing the number of Maui’s dolphins has fallen to 55 from 111 estimated in an earlier study in 2005.
The government responded yesterday by saying it will extend the set net ban around Taranaki. But this would only happen after a period of consultation.
“These latest population figures show we have to act now, there is no choice. Any delay could lead to more deaths of Maui’s dolphins in fishing nets and tip the species past the point of no return,” Katrina Subedar said.
In January, the death of a Maui’s dolphin in a set net off the Taranaki coast was reported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, underlining the need for a set net ban in the area.
In the past when protection measures have been sought by the government, the Minister’s decision has been challenged in the courts, which created long delays, during which more dolphins were killed.
“We cannot afford any more deaths from delayed protection measures.”
On Tuesday the Primary Industries Minister said the government must balance protection measures against the impact on the fishing industry. But Katrina Subedar said talking of balance was not appropriate when previous attempts to balance different interests had brought Maui’s dolphins to the edge of extinction.
“The interests of this very special marine mammal have not figured in any kind of balance up to now and New Zealand will be judged harshly if this so-called balance leads to extinction.”
“We welcome the government’s plans to bring forward the review of the Threat Management Plan for Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins to this year because this should lead to more effective protection for them. But we need to take interim measures now so we don’t get in a situation where it’s too late to do anything to save them.”