15 Dec 2016

Fishing companies' plan to protect Maui's dolphins criticised

12:50 pm on 15 December 2016

Two big fishing companies have announced a plan to protect the endangered Maui's dolphins, but an expert says it still won't be enough to avoid extinction.

It is estimated there are only 63 Maui dolphins over the age of one year left.

Maui dolphin.

Maui dolphin. Photo: Earthrace Conservation / Liz Slooten

Some legal protections for the dolphins are in place along the North Island's West Coast, but Sanford and Moana New Zealand say they want to end all set netting north of New Plymouth up to Northland within a year.

Coastal set netting south of New Plymouth to Whanganui will be monitored by cameras from October next year and the companies want to stop conventional trawling by 2022.

Moana New Zealand chief executive Carl Carrington acknowledged current practices were not good enough to protect the world's rarest dolphin - but said they were making a start to remedy the situation.

"It's a very sizeable issue to deal with, it takes us a certain amount of time to find alternative methods that will be dolphin-safe, so it's a start.

"We're committed to finding a lasting and enduring solution and the highest threat is first of all coastal set netting, so that's where we are prioritising the focus."

But a Maui's dolphin expert, zoologist Liz Slootin said without a total ban on set nets, it would hardly make a difference.

"I wish it was more substantial, but really this is just spin and PR. It might save one dolphin in 20 years, but when you are down to 50 or 60 dolphins, we need to do a lot better than this."

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