Conservationists and opposition politicians have stepped up callsfor the New Zealand government to take urgent measures to protectthe country's endangered native dolphins after one of the animalswas found dead last week. The Department of Conservation (DOC) announced Monday that it hadyet to identify the animal as either a Hector's dolphin or the moreendangered Maui's dolphin, which is thought to have just 55 of itskind. A preliminary pathology report said the animal, found on a beach onthe west coast of the North Island, had died of natural causes andnot as a result of "human interaction" such as injury from fishingnets, said a DOC statement. DNA tests to determine whether it was a Hector's or Maui's dolphinwould take at least two weeks, it said. |
Conservation spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party, GrantRobertson, said Monday that emotions were running high as the deathcould mean just 54 Maui's dolphins were still alive. "The government and fisheries sector can't continue to prevaricate.It's too important -- we are talking about the impending extinctionof an entire species," said Robertson in a statement. Extensions to set net bans on the country's West Coast and a marinemammal sanctuary, expected to come into force next month, could notguarantee the dolphins' survival, he said. The opposition Green Party on Sunday called on the government toimplement an immediate moratorium on set-net fishing on the westcoast of the North Island. Regardless of how the dolphin died, the government should take allpracticable steps to ensure the dolphins' survival, said GreenParty oceans spokesperson Gareth Hughes in a statement.
Earlier this month, an international coalition of conservationcampaigners called on the government to immediately placerestrictions of fishing nets, in a letter to Prime Minister JohnKey. The world's smallest dolphin, the Maui's dolphin, is the mostendangered of all whales and dolphins, and lives only in NewZealand waters. Hector's and Maui's dolphins are primarily threatened by lethalby-catch in trawl and gill nets, but other factors, includinghabitat degradation, are also dangers, say conservationists. Last month, the government announced it was considering furthermeasures to protect the Maui's dolphin after the Department ofConservation warned the existing population was likely to diminish.
Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Conservation MinisterKate Wilkinson announced they were proposing added protectionmeasures while a full review was carried out.
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