New Zealand dolphin faces extinction, group warns

Feb 14, 2013
Campaigners dressed as dolphins call on New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to help save the critically endangered Maui's dolphin, in Wellington, on May 2, 2012. Scientists have also urged New Zealand to take immediate action to protect the animal.

Scientists have urged New Zealand to take immediate action to protect the critically endangered Maui's dolphin, amid warnings the marine mammal could become extinct by 2030.

The animal, the world's smallest dolphin sub-species, is only found in waters off the North Island's west coast and experts estimate the adult population has dwindled to just 55, the US-based Society for Marine Mammalogy (SSM) said.

In a letter to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, it said scientific data showed up to five a year died after becoming entangled in fishing nets, meaning urgent action was needed for it to survive.

While the findings are disputed by commercial fishers, the SSM said the evidence was "exceptionally strong" and called for a ban on trawling and a fishing method known as gillnetting in its marine habitat.

"In a situation such as this one, involving a critically endangered sub-species, delay to resolve uncertainty could have dire, irrevocable results," SSM president Helene Marsh said in the letter dated February 11, seen Thursday.

"I encourage you to act quickly and decisively to provide the leadership in that the world expects of your country."

The SSM, which represents 2,000 scientists from 60 countries, said the population of Maui's dolphin was so small that allowing any of them to be die as "bycatch" to the fishing industry made it unsustainable.

Conservation group NABU International said the figures showed the Maui's dolphin was set to become extinct by 2030 if the government took no action.

"The scientific evidence for an immediate zero tolerance approach to Maui's dolphin mortality is overwhelming," NABU conservation expert Barbara Maas said.

"New Zealand is becoming embarrassingly isolated amidst growing international interest and concern."

In July last year, the International Whaling Commission also called for New Zealand to extend maritime protection zones for the dolphin.

The government began reviewing protection measures for the dolphin last year but is yet to make an announcement about whether they will be strengthened.

Explore further: Deakin researcher calls for citizen scientists to help save rare 500kg turtle

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mexico, N. Zealand pressed to save marine mammals

Jul 06, 2012

A scientific body urged Mexico and New Zealand to take immediate action to prevent the extinction of small marine mammals that are being killed by gillnets set by the fishing industry.

18 endangered dolphins spotted off Borneo: WWF

Feb 07, 2012

Conservation group WWF said it spotted 18 critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Indonesian waters off Borneo island Tuesday and called for greater protection of the species' habitat.

Dolphin population at risk in Britain

May 16, 2007

A report from the Wildlife Trusts and an animal charity has found that commercial fishing in Britain is placing the regional dolphin population at risk.

Recommended for you

Protections blocked, but sage grouse work goes on

16 hours ago

(AP)—U.S. wildlife officials will decide next year whether a wide-ranging Western bird species needs protections even though Congress has blocked such protections from taking effect, Interior Secretary ...

Uphill battle to tackle Indonesian shark fishing

Dec 17, 2014

Sharks are hauled ashore every day at a busy market on the central Indonesian island of Lombok, the hub of a booming trade that provides a livelihood for local fishermen but is increasingly alarming environmentalists.

Virus causing mass Cape Cod duck die-offs identified

Dec 16, 2014

Since 1998, hundreds and sometimes thousands of dead eider ducks have been washing up every year on Cape Cod's beaches in late summer or early fall, but the reasons behind these cyclic die-offs have remained ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.