The 2015 annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) scientific committee has just wrapped up in San Diego. During the gathering, Otago University Professor Liz Slooten and Dr Barbara Maas of the NABU International Nature Conservation Foundation made a frightening presentation concerning New Zealand’s Maui dolphins to the 200 assembled scientists.
As reported in the New Zealand Herald on May 27, the report shows that the estimated total number of Maui dolphins is down to 43-47, with only a dozen or so adult females left.
According to the Department of Conservation, this endemic species is threatened by pollution, fishing, boating, and other human acts, and they have asked kiwis and visitors to report sightings of the dolphin as they can be seen from the shore around the North Island simply while sightseeing or during nature tours (although this is very rare).
Dr Maas has called these new low figures an “unmistakable wake-up call”, and predicted that should these dolphins stop dying from human intervention, the dolphins could number as many as 500 within the next century.
At present, the waters around Auckland are a safe zone from oil exploration – but not from other forms of exploration. Plus, there is a range of trawling and drift net restrictions where the Maui dolphin lives, but Dr Maas has warned that if more steps are not taken, this endangered species could be extinct within 15 years.
In true Kiwi style, Wellington local man Mark Major teamed up with current free dive champion William Turbridge and created a crowd fund with the aim to raise enough money to build an app called Plunge Free Dive. In the game, you compete to free dive while rescuing Hector’s and Maui dolphins as you go, all in the attempt to raise awareness and support for the survival of these marine creatures.
At Habitat Tours, we’re lucky enough to see the occasional bottlenose dolphin off the coast during our Auckland day tours. We are deeply concerned with all things conservation, and hope to see more efforts to preserve our beautiful marine life in the future.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist