Maui's dolphin in global spotlight

The plight of New Zealand's endangered Maui's dolphins has again been highlighted at an international level, this time by global conservation agency WWF.

WWF joins University of Otago dolphin specialist Associate Prof Liz Slooten in presenting papers on concerns about the dolphins' future to the international Whaling Commission Scientific Committee that is meeting in Slovenia.

The WWF paper presented to the commission outlined its beliefs the New Zealand Government was putting Maui's dolphins at risk of extinction by ignoring scientific evidence of their range and what protection was needed to save them.

''There is no protection for Maui's dolphins in a number of areas where, by the Government's own standard, there have been several reliable sightings,'' WWF marine advocate Milena Palka said.

The Government needed to extend protection for Maui's dolphins across their habitat.

''Estimates indicate there are only about 55 Maui's left. Their survival is on the line. We need to do everything we can to protect them. They are right on the edge and the world is watching.''

Prof Slooten's paper showed the protection measures announced last year would at best reduce the estimated Maui's dolphin bycatch from five to three dolphins a year but would not be enough to avoid continued population decline, Ms Palka said.

''The science shows that we can only afford one human-induced Maui's death every 10 to 23 years. Both these papers show that the Government's limited protection measures will only delay a Maui's extinction, not stop it,'' she said.

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