Maui’s dolphins are listed as Critically Endangered by both national (Department of Conservation) and international agencies (IUCN). By definition, this means “facing an extremely high risk of extinction”. The Maui's is a subspecies of the Hector's which is also critically endangered.
"...release of a new study that shows there are just 55 adult Maui dolphins left, less than half the amount recorded in 2005". No dolphin population of this size can be considered sustainable unless human impacts are reduced as far as possible.
Dolphin deaths in fishing nets (in particular gillnets) is known to be the most serious impact on Maui’s dolphins, as explained in the Threat Management Plan prepared by the Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries. Luckily, eliminating fisheries bycatch would be relatively easy and cheap. The gillnet fishery produces low-quality fish, because the fish sit in the nets for up to 24 hours (longer if the weather conditions are poor and the fishermen can’t clear their nets every day).
Deaths of Maui’s dolphins in gill nets and trawl nets are easily avoidable, by avoiding use of this gear in their habitat. More selective, sustainable fishing methods, that do not kill dolphins are readily available. Using selective fishing methods would benefit not only dolphins, but also seabirds and the fish populations on which the long-term future of the fishing industry depends.
REQUEST to New Zealand Government (to be included):
In line with urgent recommendations made by the IUCN in September 2012, we urge the New Zealand government to afford Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins immediate full protection against gill netting and trawling throughout their habitat to avert their extinction. Swift, decisive and uncompromising action is required to prevent any further fatalities amongst the last individuals so they have a chance of returning from the very brink of extinction. Every day the animals are exposed to gill and trawl nets carries a risk we simply can’t afford. With small and declining populations, only a zero tolerance approach to fishing-related mortality will save both subspecies. If ever there was a time to act, it is now.
John Key, Prime Minister (New Zealand)
Nathan Guy, Minister for Primary Industries
Hon Dr Nick Smith, Minister of Conservation