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Maui's Dolphins may get some much needed protection in New Zealand

Maui's dolphins are the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world.
Maui's dolphins are the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world.

In preparing for elections, New Zealand's Green Party announced in Parliament today another environmental plan that may finally give the Maui's Dolphins the protection that they so desperately need to survive.

The key points for the plan are:

  1. Enforce protection in the already established sanctuary by forbidding deadly fishing practices, mineral mining, and new gas and oil explorations in the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary. This is a vital point because although the sanctuary was technically established, fishing, oil and other industries have been allowed to wreck havoc on the area and the fragile dolphin species they are trying to save. As Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei pointed out in his speech to parliament,: “National’s sham sanctuary allows dangerous oil drilling, seismic surveying, seabed mining, and fishing methods which are lethal to Maui’s dolphins. It’s closer to a slaughter house than a safe house.”
  2. As per conservationists' recommendations, the ban on destructive fishing practices such as trawling and set nets would extend to include the entire range for the Maui's Dolphins. This is great news not only for the dolphins but for the ocean in general. These fishing methods destroy entire chunks of the ocean, often times leaving them barren or destroying thousands of non-target species known as by-catch; banning them will go a long way towards protecting the dolphins as well as other marine life. These deadly fishing methods were believed to be responsible for killing 5 of the critically endangered dolphins last year.
  3. $20 million will be set aside to aid fisherman in the transition to safer, more environmentally friendly fishing practices and help to support their livelihood during the transition. The money will be dispersed over a 3 year period. The best policies for allocating the funds will be determined by discussions with the fishermen themselves in order to find the best way to meet their needs.

These measures are vitally important to the survival of the Maui's Dolphins which are the world's smallest, and most rare dolphins in the world. Listed on the IUCN's Red List as Critically Endangered, there are only 55 confirmed dolphins over a year old left in the world as of 2012 and they can only be found in this stretch of New Zealand waters so without these measures, they will be lost forever.