16 December 2009
WWF calls for extension of measures to protect Maui's
WWF says a Waitara resident's recent sighting of a rare Maui's dolphin off the Taranaki coast is further evidence that
the critically endangered dolphins range further than the limits of the current protected area.
There are estimated to be a surviving population of just 111 Maui's dolphins. The species is facing the risk of
extinction, and the main threat to their survival is fishing with nets, including trawl nets and set nets. Scientists
estimate there used to be 1000 Maui's dolphins along the west coast of the North Island prior to the 1970s when fishing
with monofilament nets was introduced. The species' numbers are now so low even one death due to human causes is
significant for its long term survival.
"It's very exciting to hear that local people are seeing Maui's dolphins off the Taranaki coast, and it's a reminder of
how lucky we are to be able to experience this amazing dolphin in our waters. It is also a concern, because it confirms
that Maui's dolphins occur outside the current protected area, and this means they are at risk of being caught in
fishing nets. This highlights the need to urgently extend the protection measures. We encourage all communities along
the west coast to call our Maui's sightings number to report to WWF their sighting, as this helps tell us where the
dolphins are from season to season, to inform conservation measures," comments WWF-New Zealand's Marine Programme
Manager Rebecca Bird.
In 2008, a pod of Maui's dolphins off an oil rig off the Taranaki coast was reported to WWF.
People can report sightings of Maui's dolphins to WWF by calling 0800 4MAUIS or by going to wwf.org.nz to report their
sighting online. The sightings are then verified by a Maui's dolphin scientist.
The information reported to WWF helps in the conservation of the species, by adding to scientific information about
where the dolphins' range and where protection measures should be in place.
"Sightings like Mr O'Donnell's experience of seeing a Maui's off Taranaki are particularly significant because they
confirm that Maui's range further than the protected area. WWF expects the Minister of Fisheries to respond immediately
to this sighting. The species is on the brink of extinction, and we cannot afford to lose one dolphin if future
generations are to continue seeing this dolphin," said WWF's Rebecca Bird.
"It is possible to stop the extinction of Maui's dolphins, and the support of the communities along the west coast of
the North Island is very important in the conservation effort. Maui's range closer to the shore over the summer months,
so if you are lucky enough to see a Maui's dolphin please contact WWF by calling our Maui's sightings number - 0800 4
Mauis - or by going to wwf.org.nz."