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Year-long research into Maui dolphin

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/06/2017

The smallest dolphin species in the world is going to get a fighting chance if a research project has anything to do with it.

The Maui dolphin is in the critically endangered category, with just between 57 and 65 remaining, so scientists from Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, University of Auckland and NIWA want to find out more about them to aid their survival.

The greatest concentration of Maui dolphin is between Manukau Harbour and Port Waikato, so the scientists will this month place up to nine offshore acoustic moorings up to 12 metres offshore just south of Manukau Harbour.

The acoustic devices will record the high frequency clicks the dolphins use to hunt prey and navigate.

Dr Kim Goetz from NIWA says anything that can be added to their knowledge of the Maui dolphin would help.

"We really know very little about their seasonal movements, offshore distribution, and ultimately why they appear to be confined to this area," she said.

Data from the moorings will be collected every three months over the next year.

The Maui dolphin project follows another acoustic monitoring project Dr Goetz is undertaking in Cook Strait, where hydrophones have been placed to detect marine mammals.

More than half the world's whale and dolphin species are found in New Zealand waters yet little is known about their migration paths and behaviour.

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