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Maui’s Dolphins Extinct By 2030, Marine Scientists Warn

Maui’s Dolphins Extinct By 2030
World’s Marine Scientists Urge Immediate Action

Under current protection levels, Maui’s dolphins will become practically extinct by 2030 as a result of fishing.

In a letter to New Zealand’s Prime Minister, the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) urges the government to ban gillnets and trawling in Maui’s dolphin habitat immediately to avoid their extinction.

With a membership of some 2,000 scientists from 60 countries, the SMM is the world's largest professional body dedicated to research on marine mammals and the ecosystems that support them.

The SMM expressed its concerns in a letter addressed to New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, as well as the Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy, and the Minister of Conservation Nick Smith.

The letter highlights that fishing nets alone kill about nine percent of an estimated population of 55 individuals over one year of age, which according to NABU International will render Maui’s dolphins virtually extinct in less than 20 years.

“I encourage you to act quickly and decisively to provide the leadership in marine conservation that the world expects of your country,” writes SMM President Professor Helene Marsh.

“Scientists from New Zealand and elsewhere have provided an exceptionally strong scientific basis for managing fisheries to prevent the extinction of Maui's dolphins. Any bycatch of Maui's dolphins is clearly unsustainable. You will appreciate the urgent need to act on that science and strengthen measures to protect these dolphins.”

The SMM also makes reference to international scientific concerns expressed last year by the International Whaling Commission and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “On behalf of the Society for Marine Mammology, I concur with the IWC recommendation to extend the North Island protected area and the IUCN resolution to ban gillnets and trawl fisheries in all areas where these dolphins are found.”

The IUCN motion had called on New Zealand to prohibit the use of gill and trawl nets in coastal waters where Hector's and Maui's dolphins occur up to a depth of 100 metre. It was passed with 117 countries and 460 organisations voting in favour. New Zealand alone had opposed it.

“The New Zealand government’s decision on whether to increase the protection for the last 55 Maui’s dolphins is now almost two months overdue, so this is a timely letter.” says NABU International’s Head of International Species Conservation Dr. Barbara Maas.

“There is nothing left in terms of credible scientific endorsement for what we have been asking for for years. With every passing day of inaction, Maui’s dolphins are unnecessarily put at risk. The scientific evidence for an immediate zero tolerance approach to Maui’s dolphin mortality is overwhelming, and New Zealand has becoming embarrassingly isolated amidst growing international interest and concern.

Images and extinction scenario graphics are available here:
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