Wednesday 01 January 2014

Time may be running out for Maui's dolphins

The New Zealand Government is risking increased domestic and international criticism unless it takes prompt and decisive action to protect the nation’s dwindling population of Maui’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori ssp. maui).

Only found in the waters of New Zealand’s North Island, the Maui’s dolphin is listed as “critically endangered” with “population trend decreasing” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Following the tireless efforts of conservationists, some fishing restrictions and mandatory monitoring have been put in place but these have failed to stop the decline.

Participants at the Society for Marine Mammalogy biennial conference that took place in Dunedin during December 2013 heard from preeminent scientists that the total population of individuals aged one year or more is now less than 50 and that only 12 to 15 are breeding females.

Many types of human activity can impact negatively on the survival of Maui’s dolphin but by far the most serious are recreational and commercial gillnet fishing and commercial trawling, which account for approximately five (reported) deaths annually. The best available scientific models estimate that the current population can only withstand one death at human hands every 10 to 23 years.

Seismic testing and fossil fuel extraction pose additional threats.

International scientific organizations, respected scientists and public petitions have increasingly called upon the New Zealand Government to take urgent action but the changes introduced in recent years have been insufficient.

Meanwhile, support in growing for a global ban on New Zealand seafood if the situation does not improve very soon.


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