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Dolphin deaths highlight need for urgent action

02 May 2006 - Wellington

Dolphin deaths highlight need for urgent action

Deaths of 19 Hector’s dolphins reported over summer highlights the urgent need for the government to put in place its long-promised species management plans, Forest & Bird says.

“This is the world’s rarest marine dolphin. It is critical that urgent action is taken to improve management practices and implement conservation measures, such as marine mammal sanctuaries, before it is too late,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“The actual number of deaths was much higher than the 19 reported, because many commercial and recreational fishers do not report deaths of dolphins caught in their set nets,” he says.

It was a relief that none of the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin were among the reported deaths as just 111 remain, Mr Hackwell says.

He says the deaths reinforce the urgent need for the government to put in place population management plans, which would set goals for managing dolphin populations and what needed to be done to protect them.

Forest & Bird wants marine mammal sanctuaries to provide statutory protection to dolphin populations in the following areas:

- Maui’s dolphins off the North Island north-west coast

- Hector’s dolphins off Kaikoura, Curio Bay, Waewae Bay, and the South Island West Coast

- An extension of the existing Banks Peninsula sanctuary protecting Hector’s dolphins. It also wants set net bans in areas of high importance for Hector’s dolphins in addition to those already in place at Banks Peninsula and north-west of the North Island.

Numbers of Hector’s dolphins are estimated at about 7000, but have plummeted by more than two-thirds since monofilament set nets were introduced in the 1970s. In 1970 there were over 26,000 Hector’s dolphins.

Maui’s dolphin is the North Island sub-species of Hector’s dolphin, and is the world’s smallest marine dolphin, found only in New Zealand waters.

ENDS

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