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Public demand to protect Hector's dolphins

29 May 2008 - Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Government responds to public demand to protect Hector's dolphins

The Government has responded to the overwhelming public support for measures to protect New Zealand's endangered Hector's and Maui's dolphins, according to Forest & Bird.

The Government's decision announced today is the most significant step taken in 20 years to bring Hector's and Maui's dolphins back from the brink of extinction, says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

"The measures will go a long way towards halting the decline of the endangered dolphins and begin the slow path to recovery," he says. "The dolphins are finally getting a lot of the protection they deserve."

The package of measures recognises the impact of set net fishing as the greatest threat to the dolphins. For most regions, the regulations around set net bans are consistent, making them easy to implement and enforce, he says.

"An extra $6 million over the next three years for observers on all commercial fishing vessels within the dolphins' range is also a good move," Kevin Hackwell says. "We are very pleased about the four new marine mammal sanctuaries and the extension of the existing sanctuary off Banks Peninsula."

Forest & Bird congratulates the thousands of New Zealanders who spoke up for Hector's and Maui's dolphins and made public submissions last year.

Hector's dolphins number fewer than 8000, down from 21,000-29,000 in the 1970s. Maui's dolphins - found off the north-west coast of the North Island - are a distinct sub-species, and just 111 are estimated to remain, making them the rarest marine dolphin in the world.

It is estimated that Hector's dolphins already bring in $24 million a year in tourist dollars, and the new measures will help increase this.

ENDS


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