A leaked Government report has revealed Māui dolphin numbers have declined further over the past five years, prompting Greenpeace to renew their call to protect the dolphins’ full habitat range.
The report, part of which has been seen by Greenpeace, confirms only 54 Māui remain, a 14% drop over the past five years.
But despite the decline in numbers, the leaked report shows the Government is not considering any further fishing restrictions in known Māui habitat, and Greenpeace says this must change.
"These are some of the rarest dolphins on the planet. The Government has the power to protect them, and they must," says Greenpeace spokesperson Ellie Hooper.
"This report shows Māui are closer to extinction than ever. Their full habitat must be protected from the things that kill them - fishing being one of them - if we want to give them a shot at survival. Previous government action has clearly been inadequate.
"If the Government doesn’t act on this now, they are making a clear choice that commercial fishing interests are more important than saving native wildlife. I don’t think many New Zealanders would be happy about that.
"The way the Government is failing to protect Māui is also putting fish exports at risk. $200million worth of fish products exported to the US could be on the line, because of a lack of action to protect this critically endangered species."
The leaked report reveals that the Government is planning to work on the threat of toxoplasmosis - a disease carried by cats that gets into the ocean - but not make any further fishing restrictions.
Hooper says all threats to these dolphins need to be removed to give them a chance.
"We can’t bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best here. If we’re serious about saving this species, we need to restrict fishing methods that kill Māui in their full habitat range, out to 100m depth, as recommended by the International Whaling Commission year after year.
"Threats from other issues like toxoplasmosis are being overstated, and are harder to address because they’re from dispersed sources. If there is a threat of disease, it makes dealing with the threats we can control - like fishing - even more essential."
The updated Māui & Hector’s Threat Management Plan, released in 2020, introduced restrictions on certain fishing methods in some parts of Māui and Hector habitat. But environmentalists and Māui experts say the plan did not go far enough.