The last remaining 55 of world’s rarest species of dolphins could disappear within three decades if New Zealand doesn’t act now, wildlife advocates say.
The Last 55 campaign was launched by WWF-New Zealand at the Maritime Museum in Auckland today, calling on the Government to extend protection of marine reserves to cover the habitats of Maui’s dolphins.
The campaign launched a petition to attempt to collect 55,000 signatures before this year’s general election.
“Today, WWF is saying enough is enough. We’re running out of time,” said WWF-NZ executive director Chris Howe.
“It is election year, and we believe all politicians must act.”
Maui’s dolphins are an inshore coastal species with limited home range, slow to breed, and only found in the West Coast of the North Island.
The species has been in rapid decline since the fishing practice of set-netting and trawling was introduced during the 1970s, when the dolphins numbered around 1800.
Now only 55 remain.
The International Whaling Commission reiterated calls last week for the Government to step up measures to protect Maui’s Dolphins, saying they could face imminent extinction by 2031.
Over the last 10 years, measures have been slowly introduced to protect the species, but Mr Howe said they were nowhere near far enough.
“There’s a variety of set-netting and trawling restrictions in different places, but it only covers less than half of the land, so you’ve got dolphins that are still at risk of being caught in the nets.”