Public submissions on the proposed interim protection measures for Maui’s dolphin come out strongly in favour of extending the protected area south to Hawera (about 80km south of the dolphin death in January). In addition, 24,448 public submissions want to see protection extended offshore to the 100m water depth contour, including the harbours, want to see dolphins protected from gillnet and trawl fisheries and want to see the north coast of the South Island included in the protected area (to provide a ‘corridor’ between North and South Island).
Only 31 of the submissions wanted no additional protection from Maui’s dolphins. And 5 submissions wanted only the extension south to Hawera, without the other measures listed above.
New evidence that protected areas can work to protect dolphins is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology. This research, sponsored by the NZ Whale & Dolphin Trust, and conducted by Trust researchers, shows that survival rates of Hector’s dolphins at Banks Peninsula have increased by 5.4% since the creation of a protected area banning gillnets from the shoreline to 4 nautical miles offshore. This dolphin population was declining rapidly before the protected area was created, and is now almost stable – declining very slowly. It’s clear what needs to happen to ensure a sustainable population, and encourage population recovery. The dolphin distribution extends to 20 nautical miles offshore, but protection only extends to 4 nautical miles. Extending this protected area to 20 nautical miles offshore, or the 100m depth contour would solve the problem, once and for all.