Saving the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphins
27 August 2012
WWF is asking people to join a new online campaign urging the New Zealand Prime Minister to stop the extinction of Maui’s dolphins - the smallest and rarest marine dolphins in the world.
New research released earlier this year estimated there are now just 55 critically endangered Maui’s dolphins over the age of one remaining. WWF is launching the online action today as the New Zealand government prepares to make decisions that could determine Maui’s fate.
“Scientists believe it is possible to pull Maui’s back from the brink of extinction, but only if the New Zealand government acts decisively to protect the dolphins from all human threats throughout their range,” said WWF-New Zealand Executive Director, Chris Howe. “The government is about to review protection measures for Maui’s, so this is a critical time for people around the world to speak out on behalf of Maui’s dolphins.”
WWF is inviting people to send an email to New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, asking him to protect Maui’s dolphins at: worldwildlife.org/SaveMauiDolphin
The main cause of the dolphins‘ decline towards extinction is fishing with gillnets. Maui’s dolphins use sonar to navigate the murky coastal waters, but aren’t able to detect the fine gillnets and so risk becoming entangled and drowning. They can also be killed in trawl nets. The New Zealand government has banned trawl and gillnet fishing in some parts of Maui’s habitat, but there are still areas of their habitat which are unprotected. Other threats include pollution, boat strike, coastal development, and sand mining.
Government commissioned science indicates that we can only afford to lose one Maui’s dolphin at the hands of humans every 10 to 23 years without impacting on the population’s ability to recover.
“This is a chance for people around the world to make a real difference, joining with many New Zealanders in calling on the New Zealand government to prohibit dangerous fishing gear from the entire Maui’s habitat; safeguard the region from sand mining and the threat of oil and gas exploration; and establish a protected ocean corridor,” said Mr Howe.
Go to worldwildlife.org/SaveMauiDolphin to add your voice to the online campaign for Maui’s dolphins.
Notes to editors
For more information, photography, footage and interviews with WWF spokespeople, please contact:
- Rosa Argent, Communications Manager, WWF-New Zealand: +64 (0)272123103 firstname.lastname@example.org or Jenny Riches, Marketing & Communications Manager, WWF-New Zealand +64 (0)274 477 158 email@example.com
- Maui’s dolphins live along the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, and are a genetically distinct sub-species of Hector’s dolphins, which live in the coastal waters of New Zealand‘s South Island.
- Hector’s and Maui’s are easily recognised by their unique rounded dorsal fin, small, rounded bodies and distinctive black markings.
- Scientists believe there were around 1500 Maui’s dolphins and around 29,000 Hector’s dolphins in the 1970s, before the use of mono-filament gillnets in fishing practices became widespread throughout New Zealand waters.
- The population estimate released in March 2012 found presence of two migrant female Hector’s within the Maui’s range, which would have travelled a distance greater than 400 km. Given the dolphins are ranging such significant distances, it is critIcal to protect the ocean corridor connecting the Maui’s dolphin population in the North Island with the Hector’s dolphin population in the South Island.
- Maui’s and fishers can both safely share New Zealand waters, so long as sustainable fishing methods are adopted. While gillnets kill dolphins, most other types of fishing don’t, such as using handlines, longlines, fish traps and trolling.
- The New Zealand government is reviewing the Maui’s component of the Hector’s dolphin Threat Management Plan, and is currently developing options for mitigating threats to Maui’s dolphins. The government will run a 6 to 8 week consultation period in the coming weeks.
- WWF-New Zealand is part of the WWF International Network, the world's largest and most experienced independent conservation organisation. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature. This is achieved by working on the ground with local communities, and in partnership with government and industry, using the best possible science to advocate change and effective conservation policy.