Maui’s dolphin numbers fall

It’s time for the Government to pull out all the stops to protect Maui’s dolphin in the wake of news that estimated numbers have fallen to between 43 and 47 individuals, said the Green Party today.

Research from NABU International shows that the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin has only 10-12 mature females left, and could be extinct by 2029. It was previously thought that there were 55 individuals remaining.

“We either do everything we can to save these unique animals, the population of which can only withstand one human-induced death every 10 to 23 years, or we lose them,” said Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“New Zealanders love Maui’s dolphin and want them protected. It’s up to the Government to act now and respond to this significant shift in the estimated dolphin population.

“The Government can halt the decline of Maui’s dolphin by properly protecting them from fishing in the marine mammal sanctuary off the west coast of the North Island and extending the sanctuary boundaries.

“The Minister of Conservation said she would look at extending the sanctuary if there were ‘significant’ sightings  outside it, but refuses to confirm what ‘significant’ means.

“The World Wildlife Fund has recorded Maui’s dolphin sightings as far south as Paekakariki, well outside the marine mammal sanctuary area. The Minister needs to extend the sanctuary and implement protection measures immediately.

“Opening up swathes of Maui’s dolphin habitat off Taranaki for oil and gas exploration needs to stop as well. Not only are dolphins and other marine mammals significantly affected by seismic surveys and habitat disturbance, they are also in harm’s way from a potential oil spill.

“The Government must  take leadership and put the environment and Maui’s dolphin ahead of exploiting natural resources for short term gain. We have a do the right thing by these dolphins, but the Government is dilly dallying,” said Ms Sage.

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