WELLINGTON: New Zealand dismissed a call from top marine scientists to better protect a rare dolphin, saying existing safeguards for the creature dubbed “the hobbit of the sea” were sufficient.
The International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) scientific committee has warned that the Maui’s dolphin will become extinct unless fishing is banned in its habitat.
Researchers believe only around 50 Maui’s dolphins are left in their sole range – waters off the North Island’s west coast – and they estimate three-to-four are accidentally killed as fishing by-catch every year.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith disputed the figure, saying that a ban on set-netting covering an area of 6,200sq km had been effective in minimising deaths.
While the IWC wants a total fishing ban in a larger area extending 20 nautical miles from the coast, Smith said there was no evidence the dolphins were found outside the area that was already protected.
“Effectively, they are asking us to shut down the entire fishing industry all the way up the west coast of the North Island, way beyond areas where we have any evidence that the Maui’s dolphin are,” he said.
“I am not going to get in the business of banning fishing (in areas) where there is no evidence Maui’s dolphin exists.” — AFP