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Maui’s sightings a call to action

Maui’s sightings a call to action

22 December 2009

Three recent sightings of rare Maui’s dolphins off the coast of Taranaki are causing a stir in conservation circles.

The endangered Maui’s dolphin, just 1.7 m in length, was thought to be extinct in the Taranaki area. It’s the world’s smallest, rarest marine dolphin – there are only around 110 left in the world and the species is only found in New Zealand.

The Maui’s was at the centre of fierce debate two years ago when the Labour government wanted to extend a commercial fishing net ban to Cape Egmont in a bid to protect the mammal.

Fishermen argued that the Maui's dolphin had not been recorded south of Tongaporutu for 30 years, and feared their livelihoods would be jeopardised.

In May 2008, then-Fisheries Minister, Jim Anderton, relented and left the southernmost boundary of the ban at Tongaporutu. However, he said that on-going monitoring and research could affect the legislation’s framework in the future.

Auckland Regional Council Councillor Christine Rose says that this sighting is a clear call to redraw the boundary and asks the current Minister of Fisheries, Phil Heatley, to act immediately.

“The commercial and recreational set nets used widely in this area are a serious threat to these dolphins. With a population of around 110, and a very limited breeding window, even one death can have a big impact on the population. The government has already signalled it intends to protect this species. Now is the time to act,” says Christine Rose.

Christine Rose is keen to get everyone involved in their conservation. “Many of us are out in boats over the holidays. If you’re lucky enough to see a Maui’s, help keep track of numbers by calling 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) and let them know what you have seen."

ENDS

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