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Govt fiddles while Maui’s dolphins edge towards extinction

6 September 2013 – Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Government fiddles while Maui’s dolphins edge towards extinction

Forest & Bird says the minor changes the Minister of Conservation is proposing to make to the boundaries of an area closed to gill-netting off the North Island’s West Coast are entirely inadequate, and will do little if anything to save the Maui’s dolphin from extinction.

The Minister is proposing to extend the zone south only as far as New Plymouth, from Pariokariwa Point, out to seven nautical miles.

Forest & Bird is campaigning for a comprehensive Maui’s dolphin sanctuary - in which gill nets, trawling, mining, and seismic testing would be banned - throughout the dolphin’s habitat.

Scientists estimate that there are only 55 Maui’s dolphins left.

“The government’s continual lack of meaningful action is risking the extinction of the Maui’s dolphin. It has been over a year since we learnt that the population had reached such a critical level, and a year since a Maui’s dolphin was found dead in a net. Yet still we don’t have a final management decision,” says Katrina Subedar, Forest & Bird Marine Advocate.

“Scientists say that in order for the Maui’s dolphin to survive, we can afford for only one dolphin to be killed every 10-23 years, so obviously urgent action is needed,” Katrina Subedar says.

Maui’s dolphins are so threatened that they appear on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s ‘Red List’ of threatened species, and are considered to be the animal most at risk of extinction in New Zealand today.

“If we let the Maui’s dolphin become extinct, New Zealand can kiss its ‘clean green’ reputation goodbye, forever. Only one other country in the world - China - has let a dolphin species disappear,” says Katrina Subedar.

No Yangtze River dolphins, or baiji, have been seen since 2007.

“The idea that New Zealand’s environmental priorities are on a par with China’s, will go down very badly with most Kiwis,” says Katrina Subedar.

“Forest & Bird, along with everyone else, wants to see the West Coast’s fishing industry thrive. We are simply calling for a change to current fishing techniques, to ones that don’t harm dolphins. For the sake of Maui’s dolphin, and indeed all New Zealanders, these changes must be made now,” says Katrina Subedar.

ENDS

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