Press Release – Department of Conservation
A Hector’s dolphin – the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphin – was spotted in Wellington harbour yesterday after last being seen in 2009.
The dolphin was sighted at Mahanga Bay yesterday afternoon by a member of the public, who reported the sighting to DOC today. They said that the dolphin had “spent about five minutes zooming under and around the boat (with the engine in neutral) before disappearing”. A spectator on shore reported seeing two dolphins, but only one animal was seen from the boat.
The first live record of a Hector’s dolphin in Wellington Harbour was in January 2009. Several sightings of the dolphin were made during the summer and autumn of 2009, with photo and video evidence taken, but there have been no further sightings in the harbour until now. There have been several sightings of possibly the same animal around the Kapiti coast last year.
New Zealand has received the worst possible ranking, last amongst 130 countries, for its protection of threatened species, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report (T&TCR)
Care for the Wild International chief executive, Dr Barbara Maas, who is currently in New Zealand, says, “The T&TCR provides a timely wake-up call for New Zealand as the Government considers what protection will be afforded to the endangered Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins.”
The comprehensive T&TCR report ranks nations’ international competitiveness as a tourism destination. This year New Zealand dropped five places overall to 19th out of 130 countries as the report took a greater focus on environmental sustainability to reflect the increasing importance visitors place on countries’ environmental performance. Last year New Zealand ranked 14th, just behind Australia but in this year’s report, Australia was ranked fourth while New Zealand’s ranking fell five places.
“New Zealanders rightly take great pride in their country’s ‘clean &green’ credentials. However, despite making progress in some areas, this report shows that when it comes to caring for native wildlife, this perception is simply not based on reality.”
Stop Their Extinction launches today (Friday 21 September) with a national day of action, when teams of WWF volunteers and students from university environmental campaign network SANE (Students of Aotearoa Network for our Earth) will take to the streets in Auckland, Dunedin, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington asking New Zealanders to sign the Stop Their Extinction petition.
Marie Haley, Marine Coordinator for SANE said: “This is our opportunity to tell the government what we want for Hector’s and Maui’s. So, it’s in our hands – right now we all have a chance to stop our dolphins from becoming extinct, which is incredible. Would we as a nation say no to the protection of the kiwi or the kakapo ?
The Threat Management Plan issued today to protect Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins is a good start, but must go further, Forest & Bird says.
Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Kirstie Knowles says that the Government plan’s proposals to establish five marine mammal sanctuaries and introduce a ban on set nets wherever the endangered dolphins are found was a positive step.
“We applaud this as a step towards a nationwide ban on set nets. Set nets are not only the most serious threat to Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins – this indiscriminate fishing method also kills a wide range of marine life, including other dolphin species, penguins, seals, sharks, rays and seabirds. Only a nationwide ban will adequately protect Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins and other vulnerable marine life.” more