Forest & Bird is urging the Government is take action to save some of New Zealand's most loved animals, Māui and Hector's dolphins, from extinction.
A Lincoln University study has revealed Māui and Hector’s dolphins are New Zealanders’ third highest priority for protection after kiwi and kākāpō.
"Māui dolphin are at breaking point and threats created by humans are driving them towards extinction. There are only around 60 Māui dolphins over a year old left in the world, so every single one counts," says Forest & Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey.
"The latest research proves what we already knew: New Zealanders love our Māui and Hector's dolphins and want to protect them. It's time to finally put protecting these national icons first, ahead of commercial interests."
“Small local populations of Hector’s dolphins are also in danger of disappearing and we must protect these to safeguard the future of the overall population.”
“It's vital that the Government acts on this. We can't continue with business as usual. These dolphins need our help to survive," says Mr Keey.
If New Zealand fails to protect Hector's and Māui dolphins we may face a trade ban from the United States. Under their own laws the US Government is required to ban fish caught from places that don’t do enough to protect marine mammals.
Forest & Bird has been calling for a ban on trawling and set netting out to the 100m depth contour in Māui dolphin habitat, and protection from seabed mining and the noise caused by oil and gas exploration.
Forest & Bird wants dolphin-friendly fishing methods to be mandatory in Hector's and Māui dolphin habitat. This means switching from commercial and recreational set net fishing, and commercial trawl fishing to potting, long lining, and purse seine fishing throughout the range of Māui and Hector’s dolphins, in waters out to a depth of 100 metres.
“We realise this will cause disruption to some fishers, and the government should provide financial and practical help for those affected,” says Mr Keey.
“Seismic surveys and other activities related to oil, gas, and other marine mining activities have no place in Māui and Hector's dolphin habitat. While the threat management plan proposals include expanding marine mammal sanctuaries, they also allow exemptions for 21 existing permit holders in Māui dolphin habitat until 2046."
"Māui dolphins could expire before the permits do.”
The threat to dolphins from toxoplasmosis, a disease spread by cat faeces washed into the ocean, is not well understood and Forest & Bird supports a proposed research programme to better understand its impact and ways to combat it.
The Lincoln University Study referenced above is online here. Relevant pages are 54-57.