Sanctuary boundaries need to extend south to protect last 55 Maui’s dolphins
The Department of Conservation’s call for submissions on its interim proposal to extend the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary close today, 27 April.
Milena Palka, WWF-New Zealand Marine Advocate, said: “The number one threat to the survival of our Maui’s dolphins is fishing with nets. However with the population so perilously low, all other human threats including boat strike, seismic surveys and seabed mining (for minerals such as iron sands) need to be removed from their habitat to give these dolphins a fighting chance at survival. Extending the current sanctuary boundaries and imposing a suspension on these activities until they can be adequately assessed is crucial.”
Maui’s dolphins, and their South Island relative Hector’s, are the smallest and rarest marine dolphins in the world. Last month, DOC released a new official population estimate revealing there are likely just 55 Maui’s over the age of one. The previous official estimate from 2006 was 111 individuals. The species is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN.
In response to the Maui’s decline, Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson and Primary Industries Minister David Carter have proposed added interim protection measures while a full review of the threats is undertaken.
WWF-New Zealand has responded to DOC’s proposal for interim extension of the West Coast North Island (WCNI) Marine Mammal Sanctuary, including an extension on the seismic survey regulations within the sanctuary, by urging a more precautionary approach. In a submission, the global conservation organisation argues that the sanctuary boundary must be further extended along the entire coast from Maunganui Bluff (near Dargaville) to Hawera in Taranaki, to cover all harbours and waters out to 100 meters deep.
WWF is also calling on the corridor that links the top of the South Island from Farewell Spit to Harewa to be protected, to allow Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins to connect. New biopsy data reveals that there is evidence of Hector’s travelling north to coexist with Maui’s. This opens up the possibility of future breeding and replenishment of the dangerously low Maui’s population.
This marine corridor is currently totally unprotected, despite evidence the dolphins are found in this area. A Hector’s dolphin was reported killed in a commercial set net off the coast of Taranaki in January this year, and subsequently identified by Ministry of Fisheries officials as a Maui’s.
“The proposed interim protection measures are inadequate to stop the extinction of the Maui’s”, said Milena Palka. “For Maui’s dolphins to survive, they need complete protection across their entire range. With as few as 55 individuals left, there can be no room for error.”
For more information please contact
Rosa Argent, Communications Manager, WWF-New Zealand: +64 4 471 4292, firstname.lastname@example.org