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Aerial survey Maui's dolphin summer distribution

Aerial survey establishes Maui's dolphin summer distribution.

Results of a January aerial survey of the critically endangered Maui's dolphin have just been completed. The aerial survey was carried out off the west coast of the North Island, between Maunganui Bluff (near Dargaville) and just south of New Plymouth. The survey was undertaken to determine the distribution of the local population, in particular how far offshore they are found and whether this changes seasonally.

The results have shown that over summer Maui's dolphins are strongly concentrated close to shore, within 4 nautical miles, and the highest concentration within 1 nautical mile of the coast. These results confirm that during the summer fishing season Maui's dolphins are protected from set netting within the regional 4 nautical mile set net ban. However, there is still overlap between dolphins and trawling between 1 to 4 nautical miles offshore.

The research team made a total of 48 sightings of individuals or groups of Maui's dolphins. As expected, most of the sightings were made between Manukau Harbour and Raglan Harbour.

"We are pleased that the aerial offshore survey has proven to be a successful non-invasive research method to deliver data on offshore distribution of Maui's dolphins. The results also show that non-invasive research methods are ideal for determining distribution of Maui's dolphins, unlike invasive research methods such as satellite tagging," says Chris Howe, WWF Conservation Director.

"We now keenly await the winter survey because that is when Maui's dolphins are more likely to be found offshore. It will highlight whether the dolphins are protected within the current set net ban - 4 nautical miles offshore, and the ban on trawling - 1 nautical mile offshore," says Chris Howe.

The summer survey was jointly funded by the Department of Conservation and WWF-New Zealand. A winter survey is planned for July 2004.

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