One of the world’s rarest species of dolphin is under threat from oil exploration and fishing, environmentalists have claimed.
It is believed that only around 55 Maui’s dolphins survive today, all living off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
A sanctuary has been designated for the critically endangered species, but now members of the New Zealand Greens party say the government is putting the species further at risk.
This comes after the authorities have permitted oil and gas exploration within the Maui’s dolphin sanctuary.
“There are a huge number of threats, from dolphins being caught in indiscriminate fishing nets to underwater explosions from exploration that can deafen the dolphins or drive them out of the sanctuary,” Greens MP Gareth Hughes told Guardian Australia.
“The government has to listen to the international scientific experts and give this species a shot at survival,” he added.
“We need to develop alternative methods of fishing to transition industry to more sustainable methods, or we will risk our good international brand for fish.”
The Greens are calling for a ban on trawl fishing and any new oil and gas exploration projects in the sanctuary.
However, Nick Smith, New Zealand’s conservation minister, insisted he is doing “everything practical” to protect the Maui’s dolphins.
“It would be economic lunacy to shut down the petroleum industry in that area. It would cost the economy $1bn (£510m) a year and mean that we’d move away from natural gas to coal, which would hugely increase our greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.
Photo: For a Living Planet via Twitter