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Government moves to further protect dolphins

Date:  13 March 2012
Source:  Offices of the Minister of Conservation (Hon Kate Wilkinson) and Minister for Primary Industries (Hon David Carter)

The Government is considering further measures to protect Māui dolphin as a new study points to a decline in numbers of the critically endangered species.  

A population assessment commissioned by the Department of Conservation shows the number of adult dolphins has gone down in the six years since the previous assessment, with an estimated 55 adult animals remaining.   

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson and Primary Industries Minister David Carter – with responsibilities for the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Fisheries Act respectively – are proposing added protection measures while a full review is done. 

The main areas where the species is found are already protected by marine mammal sanctuaries and restrictions on fishing. 

The proposed new measures would extend the set net ban along the Taranaki coast from Pariokariwa Point south to Hawera and out to 4-nautical miles. The West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary would also be extended to Hawera and out to 12 nautical miles, with restrictions on seismic surveys throughout the sanctuary. 

In addition, the Government has asked for a planned review of the Hectors and Māui Threat Management Plan to be brought forward from 2013 to this year – prioritising the Māui component. 

“The review of the Threat Management Plan will reassess natural and man-made risks that Hectors and Māui dolphin face and recommend how the greatest risks can be mitigated,” Ms Wilkinson says. 

“Māui are critically endangered so any decline is very concerning. It is important that we act now, which is why the Government has proposed the interim measures and has brought forward the review of the plan.” 

“The Department of Conservation continues to gather data on Māui dolphin but everyone can play a part by reporting sightings.” 

Mr Carter says the Government must balance several factors in proposing interim protection measures, including the impact on the local fishing community.  

“For this reason, we will be consulting on the proposed measures before final decisions are made,” he says.

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