New Zealand’s Dolphins Risk Extinction If Action Is Not Taken Soon

New Zealand’s Dolphins Risk Extinction If Action Is Not Taken Soon



Hector’s dolphins are the smallest dolphin species in the world, and only around 10,000 them remain alive in the wild, off the shores of the South Island of New Zealand, NOAA reports.

These dolphins stick to a territorial range of just over 32 miles, rarely venturing away from home, according to Akaroa Dolphins.

Within the population of Hector’s dolphins, Māui dolphins are an even more rare subspecies with larger skulls and a longer, wider rostrum. There are only about 55 Māui dolphins left today, reports the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

“Like kiwi, Māui and Hector’s dolphins are an iconic part of New Zealand’s natural heritage. If we don’t take care of them, they will be lost forever. The threats they face need to be managed to avoid their extinction,” the DOC website states. “DOC and Fisheries New Zealand have a planning framework to manage these threats.”

While Hector’s dolphins are endangered and the the Māui dolphins critically endangered, not enough is being done to save these animals from extinction.

Only around 10,000 Hector's dolphins remain alive in the wild off the shores of the South Island of New Zealand. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / CARMEN
Only around 10,000 Hector’s dolphins remain alive in the wild off the shores of the South Island of New Zealand. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / CARMEN

According to the Guardian, gillnets used in fishing pose the biggest threat to the Hector’s and Māui dolphins. These nets float vertically through the water to catch large quantities of fish, but also trap seabirds and other marine life as “bycatch.”

Hector's dolphins stick to a territorial range of just over 32 miles, rarely straying far from home. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / SHARON JONES
Hector’s dolphins stick to a territorial range of just over 32 miles, rarely straying far from home. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / SHARON JONES

Close to 100,000 cetaceans – mainly dolphins – were caught in commercial gill nets as by-catch in 2018, Mongabay reports, a number that has since only decreased due to the depleted fish population.

Those numbers could even be much lower than reality, as by-catch estimates in the study “do not include cetaceans that were caught by gill net but discarded at sea, used as bait and not landed, escaped from capture but subsequently died, or suffered significant sub-lethal impacts, caught in ghost nets or landed but not recorded.”

Close to 100,000 cetaceans – mainly dolphins – were caught in commercial gill nets as by-catch in 2018. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / LINA
Close to 100,000 cetaceans – mainly dolphins – were caught in commercial gill nets as by-catch in 2018. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / LINA

New Zealand, as one of just two countries to reject the IUCN World Conservation Congress‘ motion to stop the extinction of rare dolphins and porpoises, the World Wide Fund For Nature reports, and may have sealed the fate for these dolphins by opening up the Māui dolphin sanctuary to mining exploration. According to One Green Planet, the Department of Conservation slammed this decision for its potentially devastating effects on marine life in the area.

“There is overwhelming global support for the New Zealand government to take action to stop gillnet and trawl fishing threatening the survival of our endangered dolphins,” said Rebecca Bird, WWF’s Marine Programme Manager. “By voting against essential protection for the world’s most endangered marine dolphin, the New Zealand government has acted shamefully and can no longer claim to be leaders in conservation. If we fail to act now, it will not be long before Maui’s disappear from our waters forever.”

Help us tell New Zealand’s Prime Minister to protect Hector’s and Māui dolphins before it’s too late! PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / MARK
Help us tell New Zealand’s Prime Minister to protect Hector’s and Māui dolphins before it’s too late!
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / MARK

This article by Matthew Russell was first published by The Animal rescue Site.


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