The government is planning to extend set net bans on the West Coast after a new study showed a substantial drop in the number of Maui’s dolphins.
Maui's dolphins are one of the rarest sub-species of dolphin in the world.
The government also plan to bring forward a review of the threat management plan for both Maui’s and Hectors dolphins - which was planned for next year – to this year.
A new population assessment by the Department of Conservation shows there are only 55 adult Maui’s dolphins left. A study in 2005 estimated there were 111 of the dolphins left.
The declining numbers have led Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson and Primary Industries Minister David Carter to propose an extension of the set net ban and the mammal sanctuary off the coast of Taranaki.
The proposed new measures would extend the set net ban along the Taranaki coast from Pariokariwa Point south to Hawera and out to 4-nautical miles.
The West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary would also be extended to Hawera and out to 12 nautical miles, with restrictions on seismic surveys throughout the sanctuary.
The proposed changes would be implemented while the threat management review is done.
“The review of the Threat Management Plan will reassess natural and man-made risks that Hectors and Maui’s dolphins face and recommend how the greatest risks can be mitigated,” Ms Wilkinson says.
“Maui’s are critically endangered so any decline is very concerning. It is important that we act now, which is why the Government has proposed the interim measures and has brought forward the review of the plan.”
Ms Wilkinson says the public can play its part by reporting sightings of the dolphin species.
Before the interim measures can be implemented, the Government “must balance several factors in proposing interim protection measures, including the impact on the local fishing community,” Mr Carter says.