Posted on 01 February 2012
Reports that an endangered Maui’s dolphin has been killed in a fishing net off the coast of Taranaki should serve as a wake up call that current protection measures are insufficient and a total ban on set nets is needed throughout their current and historical range to save the species, warns WWF.
Auckland, New Zealand - Reports that an endangered Maui’s dolphin has been killed in a fishing net off the coast of Taranaki should serve as a wake up call that current protection measures are insufficient and a total ban on set nets is needed throughout their current and historical range to save the species, warns WWF.
WWF-New Zealand’s Executive Director Chris Howe says: “This death of a Maui’s dolphin is a tragedy for a species that is down to only about 100 individuals. Set nets in Maui’s habitat continue to pose an unacceptable risk to these dolphins. Until we get set nets out of the shallow coastal waters where they live, more Maui’s will needlessly get entangled and drown. The species could be extinct within our generation without urgent action.”
Maui’s dolphins, a subspecies of the South Island’s Hector’s dolphins, are found only off the west coast of the North Island. They are the world’s rarest marine dolphin, classified internationally as critically endangered.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) yesterday released a statement saying they believe that the dead animal was a Maui’s, not a Hector’s dolphin as originally reported, because of the location of its death. The dead dolphin was returned to the sea by the fisher. MAF claimed the death “occurred outside of the current known range of Maui’s dolphins, as well as outside the current restrictions.”
However there have been independent verified sightings of Maui’s dolphins in the coastal waters off Taranaki in recent years, and WWF-New Zealand is urging MAF and the government to extend protection measures throughout the Maui’s historical range to give the species the best chance of survival and recovery.
Despite fishing restrictions announced in 2008, Maui’s are not currently protected throughout their entire range. WWF is calling on the government to extend protection measures into harbours and the southern extent of their current range, along with better monitoring and policing of regulations.
WWF- New Zealand is urging all members of the public who see a Maui’s dolphin – noted for their rounded dorsal fin - to report it to a special sightings hotline, 0800 4 MAUIS. Mr Howe says: “Every sighting of one of these rare and precious dolphins matters. The more we know about where Maui’s range and their movements, the better we can protect them.
“WWF will continue to speak out on behalf of all those New Zealanders who want to stop the extinction of Maui’s dolphins, and urge the government to extend the current protection measures before it is too late.”