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Groups Rally To Save Hector's Dolphin

Locals And Conservation Groups Rally To Save Hector's Dolphin

Local residents and conservation groups are joining forces to save North Island Hector's dolphin. A funeral walk will be held at Awhitu Peninsula on Sunday 17 March to mark the recent deaths of three dolphins in the area. The full walk will start at Big Bay at 9am. Members from a number of local sports clubs will attempt the full walk.

The main walk will assemble at the Kentish at Waiuku at 3pm and aim to arrive at Karioitahi at 5pm. Speakers at Karioitahi will include Annie Whittle from Shortland Street and Kirsty Russell, who is currently the only researcher studying North Island Hector's dolphins. Shoreline Kids is providing entertainment for children at Karioitahi.

Louise Brewer, who instigated the idea, says that locals are sick of dead dolphins washing up on their beaches. "Our dolphins are dying in nets faster than they can breed. It's got to stop," says Louise.

Mike Percy, a member of Forest and Bird's Waitakere Branch, hopes that the walk will draw attention to the immediate plight of North Island Hector's Dolphin and Forest and Bird's West Coast Marine Park proposal. Forest and Bird is advocating a Marine Park be created to secure long-term protection for both dolphins and other species. "North Island Hector's dolphins simply can not survive being killed in nets at the rate of three within a month. The recent court decision that overturned Ministerial controls on trawling and a ban on set netting in this area gives more urgency to this issue," says Mr Percy.

Mr Percy believes that, given the ecological values of the area, relatively little attention has been focused on the west coast in the past. "We have the Miranda Ramsar Site and a Hauraki Gulf Marine Park on the east coast. It's time to look west," says Mr Percy.


BACKGROUND NOTES: 1. North Island Hector's Dolphin are a critically endangered sub-species that is confined to the West Coast mainly between Port Waikato and the mouth of the Kaipara harbour. There are now thought to be less than 100 NI Hector's dolphin, which do not breed until they are around 7 or 8 years of age. They feed inshore, within 4 nautical miles of the coastline, making them vulnerable to nets in the inshore zone. 2. The Marine Park proposal is still being planned, but Forest and Bird envisage it would stretch from Port Waikato to the mouth of the Kaipara (to cover the main range of NI Hector's dolphin) and that inshore trawling and set netting would be banned within the Park. Several marine reserves could be created at appropriate locations within the park to allow fish numbers in the area to rejuvenate, either at the same time the Marine Park is created or at a later date. It is envisaged that recreational surf casting and sport fishing would continue within the Park, except in any areas where marine reserves were created. 3. A West Coast Marine Park working group, consisting of representatives from interested residents and many local groups and organizations, was formed last year and Forest and Bird has recently appointed someone to work full time on the West Coast Marine Park proposal. The proposal already has the support of Waitakere mayor, Bob Harvey, and Waitakere MP, David Cunliffe.

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