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Pilot Sightings And Strandings Network

WWF Launches Pilot Sightings And Strandings Network

World Wide Fund For Nature launches the pilot of its Sightings and Strandings Network today, part of a research project to help save the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphin, the North Island Hector’s Dolphin.

The WWF Sightings and Strandings Network covers the area where North Island Hector’s Dolphins are generally found, in isolated pockets along the north west coast of the North Island, between Taranaki and Dargaville. They live in small groups close to the shore, and don't generally swim any further than 30kms from where they are born.

Local communities, schools, recreational fishers and holidaymakers in the area are being asked to report any sightings of the dolphins via the Hector's Dolphin website, www.hectorsdolphin.org.nz, by calling 0800 HECTORS or by filling in a flyer (found at local stores and information centres) and sending it to WWF in Wellington.

The North Island Hector's Dolphin is critically endangered. There are approximately 100 left from a population that possibly numbered in the thousands at the beginning of last century.

The decline in North Island Hector’s Dolphin numbers is believed to be caused by commercial and recreational set net fishing near the coastline in their shallow water habitat. Other human-induced threats include trawling, pollution, boat strikes and effects on food sources, as well as natural threats such as shark predation. The North Island Hector's Dolphin is extremely vulnerable - its slow breeding rate and small population means even one dolphin death caused by people per year is enough to drive the population to extinction.

The Sightings and Strandings Network will provide scientists with more information about the dolphins' population, location, habitat and behaviour, and is expected to continue for the next few years. It is hoped that an improvement in the numbers of NI Hector's Dolphins will be seen within that time.

This week, WWF conservation and education staff will be in Raglan talking to school children about Hector's Dolphin. They will also be presenting a public meeting on Thursday 9th November at Community House, 45 Bow Street, Raglan, from 7.30-9.30pm.

For more information about the WWF Sightings and Strandings Network, please contact Anna Thomson, Communications Manager on tel: (04) 499 2930, fax: (04) 499 2954, mobile: 025 285 2602 or email: anna.thomson@wwf.org.nz.

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