Maui’s dolphins are now so threatened that sightings are rare.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) says their population has dwindled to just 55.
The Government wants to extend a ban on set netting which is thought to be the dolphin’s main threat.
World Wildlife Fund marine programme manager Rebecca Bird says these dolphins are “so very on the brink of extinction those without immediate intervention we’re potentially standing to lose them forever”.
Set netting is already banned on much of the North Island’s west coast to protect Maui’s dolphins. The extension would cover most of the Taranaki coastline.
Ocean Pearl Fisheries owner Rob Ansley employs 16 people and says the ban would destroy his business.
The proposed measures aim to protect a dolphin that Mr. Ansley has never seen in 26 years of fishing in Taranaki.
“It’s hard to sleep,” he says. “I don’t know, there’s no justification”.
Mr. Ansley wants DOC to gather more information on other threats to the dolphins before a decision’s made.
A number of conservation groups – including Forest and Bird, the World Wildlife Fund and the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union – believe numbers are too critical for more delays and what urgent action.
Ms Bird says she wants “emergency measures put in place that actually protect these dolphins”.
Taranaki fishermen say they want the dolphins to survive – but their numbers may just be too low to avoid extinction.
Dolphins are a fun and playful species. They have evolved to be well suited for their aquatic environments. Over many years these animals have gone from land dwellers to deep-sea divers. These amazing creatures are considered one of the top predators in the marine ecology system. Imagine you are at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom swimming with the dolphins. The trainers explain that all these ...
Egmont Seafood managing director Keith Mawson says he thinks “there is a real possibility that the population will become extinct whether they extend the ban or not”.
The Government says it will make its decision on whether to implement the ban extension within two months.
Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson says the Government has to balance the interests of fishing and conservations groups and they will not make any hasty decision that will result in legal action from either side