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Tourism industry targeted in fight to save Maui's dolphin

Published: 5:40AM Wednesday April 11, 2012 Source: ONE News / Fairfax

A campaign aimed at jeopardising the New Zealand tourism industry serves as a "wake-up call" to protect a critically endangered dolphin species, the organiser says.

New Zealand free-diving world champion William Trubridge is calling for international tourists to write to Prime Minister John Key to say they will cancel planned trips to New Zealand until the Maui's dolphin is given "sufficient" protection.

Trubridge filmed a video, which has had more than 20,000 views on YouTube, calling to "put pressure on New Zealand's Government".

A recent Department of Conservation report estimates there are approximately 55 Maui's dolphins left, residing only on the West Coast of the North Island.

Trubridge told TV One's Breakfast this morning he has had a good response from the video, both nationally and internationally.

"Everyone is very concerned about the issue and wants to see the dolphin species saved," he said.

"It's common knowledge that the current protective measures aren't sufficient."

James Higham of University of Otago's Department of Tourism said there is value associated with endangered animals, which means protection is not only for their sake, but for New Zealand tourism itself.

"The interesting thing about the tourism industry is that it gives value to wildlife species, whether it's yellowed-eyed [penguins], or sea lions or albatrosses or, in this case, Maui's dolphins," said Higham.

"The dolphin is globally significant and New Zealand is globally answerable for the survival of that species."

Higham said to have a figurehead such as Trubridge behind the campaign is important because of his affinity with the marine environment.

"He is raising awareness here of such issues as fishing practice, and other issues such as New Zealand's poor record in protecting marine environments," he said.

Nets not to blame for dolphin deaths - fishermen

Taranaki fishermen have said fishing nets are not to blame for the diminishing Maui's dolphin population following submissions for a proposed interim set net fishing ban in the area.

The ban would stretch from Pariokariwa Point in north Taranaki south to Hawera.

Taranaki commercial fishermen and processing companies spokesperson Keith Mawson said factors such as shark and orca predation, pollution and disease were likely to be the major contributors to declining dolphin numbers.

"There are other things happening to this population that are having an impact and we need to address these," Mawson said.

The proposed ban would put an end to commercial fishing in Taranaki and do nothing to protect Maui's dolphins, he said. "It will be the final nail in the coffin of the local industry and Port Taranaki as a fishing port.

"It's a case of mutually-assured extinction out of which no-one will be winners - not the dolphins and not the fishermen."

Increasing the exclusion zone could cost the Taranaki economy $15 million a year and put up to 50 people out of work.

Up until the accidental capture of a dolphin in January this year there had been no reported research sightings or capture in the proposed exclusion zone for 25 years, Mawson said.

"We've had one mortality in 25 years.

"Is that enough to shut a whole industry down?"

The ministry says the Maui's dolphin population can sustain only one human-induced mortality every 10 to 23 years without impacting on the ability of the population to rebuild to a sustainable level.

The ministry and DOC expect the full review of the dolphin threat management plan to be completed by November with recommendations provided to ministers.