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Two dead Hector's dolphins in 48 hours

Media release from WWF, the conservation organisation. 12 November 2003.

Two dead Hector's dolphins in 48 hours: a recovery plan long overdue.

WWF is calling on the government to immediately move forward the long overdue species recovery plan for the Hector's dolphin. Two deaths in the last 48 hours highlight how urgently this plan is needed. The butchered carcass of a Hector's dolphin was found on Monday, and another dolphin found stranded yesterday, both in the Kaikoura region. Autopsies have not been finalised on these latest deaths, but in recent years a high number of dolphin deaths have been the result of fishing related activity. "The first carcass has the telltale signs of being a fishing related death, as it has been reported in the past that drowned dolphins have been cut from nets hoping they will sink," says Chris Howe, WWF Conservation Director.

There is an urgent need for government action on a species recovery plan that addresses all threats to the Hector's dolphin. This includes fishing, marine farming, pollution, recreational boat activity, as well as genetic isolation of local populations. WWF is alarmed that over recent years there has been a high number of mutilated stranded Hector's dolphins together with a high proportion of carcasses too decomposed to identify cause of death.

"These deaths are a reminder that strandings that end on the beach are probably only a small fraction of dolphin deaths," says Chris Howe, WWF Conservation Director. This equally applies to the critically endangered Maui's dolphin, a sub-species of the Hector's dolphin. The government identified that more than one human induced death every seven years seriously threatens the Maui's chances of recovery. Despite this, since July 2001, seven dead Maui's dolphins have been found, only one of which was confirmed as a death from natural causes. WWF believes that the number of Maui's deaths could be much higher.

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"We urge the government to formulate and implement a recovery plan to address threats to both Hector's and Maui's dolphins nationally. Otherwise we could be at risk of being the first country to drive a dolphin species to extinction," says Chris Howe.


- WWF has campaigned for the protection and recovery of the Hector's and Maui's dolphin, for over 5 years. The Maui's dolphin has been identified as a sub-species, and was formerly known as the North Island Hector's dolphin. It is found along the North Island west coast and numbers fewer than 100.

- WWF believes that carefully monitored dolphin and whale watching, such as that in Kaikoura, can provide valuable opportunities to build and ensure sustainable livelihoods for local communities while also protecting and valuing marine biodiversity. A species recovery plan would greatly benefit not only the Hector's dolphins, but also the Kaikoura community.

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