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Rise in Maui dolphin numbers

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/10/2016

A new study which puts the numbers of Maui dolphin as high as 75 is encouraging for the species' future, the government says.

It has released the figures from the study which was carried out over the last two summers on the world's smallest and rarest dolphin, which only lives off the west coast of the North Island.

The preliminary results from the study by the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries and Auckland and Oregon State Universities, estimate the population at approximately 63 adults, with 95 per cent confidence there are between 57 and 75.

A 2010-11 survey estimated the number of adults at 55, with 95 per cent confidence there were between 48 and 69.

"These results are encouraging but there is no dispute the Maui population remains at a very low level and the government remains committed to ensuring their long-term survival," Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said on Thursday.

"What it does show is that Maui numbers over the past five years have stabilised, which can only be good news."

WWF New Zealand said the population boost was welcomed but said the government should be doing more to protect them.

"The New Zealand government needs to take urgent action to protect Maui dolphins and support affected fishers to move to dolphin-friendly methods of fishing," campaigner Alex Smith said.

There are bans on using set nets along much of the North Island's west coast but WWF wants the area extended to create a sanctuary from Maunganui Bluff to the Whanganui River mouth out to a depth of 100m.

"They need to be protected throughout their range from set netting, trawling and risky marine mining activities," Smith said.

Earlier this year Germany-based conservation group Nabu International estimated there could be as few as 43 Maui dolphins left and the species could be extinct within 15 years.

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