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Dolphin death highlights need for protection

June 6, 2003 - Wellington


Dolphin death highlights need for increased protection

Forest and Bird is urging action to better protect Maui's dolphin after the seventh death of in two years. The dolphin was washed up on an Auckland West Coast beach.

"Maui's dolphin is one of the world's five most critically endangered dolphins. There are probably less than 100 left. Each death drives the species closer to extinction," said Forest and Bird's northern conservation officer David Pattemore.

Maui's dolphin breeds very slowly. With only 100 left, scientists estimate that only 1 human-induced dolphin death every 5 years will prevent the population from recovering. "The current level of deaths will drive this species to extinction."

"At least five of the six previous deaths were caused by fishing. That is completely unacceptable and is driving the population downwards at an alarming rate", Mr Pattemore said.

"Recently, IUCN - the World Conservation Union - Cetacean (whale and dolphin) experts group called for greater protection of Maui's Dolphin. Forest and Bird asks Aucklanders to heed this call by supporting greater protection on Auckland's West Coast," he said.

The IUCN called for an increase in the dolphin's protected areas to include harbours and bays and extend further offshore.

"Forest and Bird would like to see a marine mammal sanctuary extending from the Maunganui Bluff to Pariokariwa Point, to provide protection for the remaining dolphins. Without increased protection Maui's dolphin could go extinct," said Mr. Pattemore.

"It is important that Aucklanders join together to look after this special dolphin," he said, " Poor placement and anchorage of nets inside the Manukau threatens Maui's dolphin as these nets can be washed out of the Harbour."

"A greater number of fisheries officers are needed on that coast together with a more effective education programme", says Mr Pattemore. "We also encourage recreational fishers to be vigilant and report any illegal set netting activity to the authorities".

Mr Pattemore said Forest and Bird is calling on the Government to fast-track the implementation of the agreed measures to ban commercial set-netting within four nautical miles of the coast. "The Minister of Fisheries announced this ban in January."


The cause of death of the previous six Maui dolphin mortalities:
Locality Date Likely cause of death
Karioitahi Beach 5 March 2001 Gill net
Karioitahi Beach 27 May 2001 Gill net
Port Waikato 27 July 2001 Gill net
Manukau Harbour 3 February 2002 Unknown
Manukau Heads 21 February 2001 Gillnet
Karioitahi Beach 21 February 2001 Gill net

The Government has announced a ban on commercial set netting on Auckland's West Coast, however, the ban has yet to be officially implemented. This is expected to occur within the next few months.

Key findings of IUCN report

The Conservation Recommendation for Hector's dolphin from the report the IUCN Cetaceans Specialist Group are:

Conservation recommendations: The Cetacean Specialist Group urges management authorities to implement the following, with the goals of reducing gillnet entanglement and other sources of human-caused mortality to sustainable levels throughout the species' range, and eliminating human-caused mortality for the North Island population so that it can recover rapidly to a viable level:

* In areas with seriously threatened populations (e.g., North Island west coast) allow fishing only with methods known not to catch Hector's dolphins (e.g., replace gillnetting or trawling with line fishing) and work toward reducing pollution, boat strikes, and other known and potential threats.

* Increase the size of existing protected areas. In particular, include the harbors and bays in the North Island sanctuary and extend the offshore boundaries of both sanctuaries.

* Implement a statistically robust observer program throughout the species' range, to verify whether and when bycatch has been reduced to sustainable levels.

* Continue to monitor abundance and distribution of Hector's dolphins and study their movements and population structure to assess exposure to threats and the effectiveness of management efforts.

Contact:David Pattemore, Northern Conservation Officer. ph 09 303 3073,021 326 625 (a/h) Barry Weeber, Senior Researcher. ph 04 385 7374 (w)

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