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Govt's $26m could help save Maui's dolphin

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/04/2017

The Maui’s dolphin, one of the rarest dolphins in the world © Twitter / Animalio (@animalioinfo) The Maui’s dolphin, one of the rarest dolphins in the world The government could help save the highly endangered Maui's dolphin with just as little as $26 million in spending, environmental activists say.

But the government says it's not considering the option because current restrictions appear to already be working.

Last year researchers found the Maui's dolphins population was likely between 57 and 75 adults, with trawling and set net fishing in its habitat off the west coast of the North Island often cited as a particular threat.

A new report from economists BERL, commissioned by conservation organisation WWF, has now put the cost on communities and businesses of moving the fishing industry to long-lining practices at somewhere between $40.1m to $75m over three years.

But it also found the government could actively mitigate the bulk of the costs on communities and businesses with a one-off spend of about $25.6m and $39.9m to help pay for a transition away from net fishing.

WWF New Zealand campaigns head Peter Hardstaff says $26m is an insignificant amount to spend on saving a species.

"It's less than three years of ministerial travel expenses," he said.

It was also less than the cost of the flag referendum, he said.

But Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says restrictions in place are working and already covered the species' habitat.

"More than 1700 square kilometres off the west coast of the North Island have been closed to trawl net fishing since 2003, and in 2012 the set net ban area was doubled to 6200 square kilometres to cover all areas where there had been confirmed sightings," Mr Guy said.

There had been no observer-reported sightings of a Maui or Hector's dolphin since coverage began, which instilled confidence the restrictions were in the right areas, he said.

Moana New Zealand - half owner of Sealord - and Sanford Limited last year voluntarily pledged to stop trawling around the dolphin's habitat from 2022.

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