International plea for dolphin protection
Maui's dolphin (file)
International marine scientists are urging the Government to protect Maui's dolphins, saying the species is destined to become "practically extinct" by 2030.
The 60-nation Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) has written to Prime Minister John Key asking for gillnets and trawling to be banned in waters where the dolphins live.
The letter highlights that fishing nets alone kill about nine percent of an estimated population of 55 individuals over one year of age, which according to Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) will render Maui's dolphins virtually extinct in less than 20 years, the SMM said in a statement on Thursday.
"Any bycatch of Maui's dolphins is clearly unsustainable, you will appreciate the urgent need to act on that science and strengthen measures to protect these dolphins," its letter says.
The letter has also been sent to Conservation Minister Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.
Labour says the Government can't ignore "international outrage" over the plight of the world's most endangered dolphins.
"The scientific community and opposition political parties have been warning the Government for over a year that inaction on the protection of our most vulnerable species is effectively a death warrant," said conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson.
"The Government's refusal to vote for additional protections at the NABU conference in Korea last year didn't go unnoticed."