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'Wildlife warrior' calls for action to save Maui's dolphin

Published: 7:54PM Sunday May 06, 2012 Source: ONE News

A self-proclaimed "wildlife warrior" is calling on the New Zealand government to take action to save the Maui's dolphin.

Activist Pete Bethune made headlines when he took on Japanese whalers in his boat the Ady Gil in January 2010.

His ship subsequently sank in the Southern Ocean and Bethune was tried and arrested in Japan.

Today Bethune's cause is closer to home.

"New Zealand's reputation is on the line over this Maui's dolphin," he said.

"In the 70s there were 2000 of these all around this coast and up around Bay of Plenty."

Now, the Department of Conservation estimate there are fewer than 55 of the Maui's dolphin left, making them the world's rarest dolphin.

"For too long the Government and the Department of Conservation have ignored them, it's time for them to stand up and save the species, and it starts with a gill net ban."

According to Forest and Bird gill nets are banned and heavily regulated in countries around the world, including the United States, Canada and Australia.

In New Zealand gill nets are allowed with some restrictions, and conservationists say that is not going far enough.

Maui's dolphin are only found off the west coast of the North Island.

From Maunganui Bluff down to Pariokariwa Point gill nets can only be used 7 nautical miles (13 km) from shore.

The Government is now considering public submissions on how to increase protection.

Proposed changes could see an extended protection zone, and a ban on set netting in water less than 100 metres deep.