The New Zealand Herald
Drop in Maui’s dolphin numbers sparks fresh alarm
A new warning has sounded for the world’s smallest dolphin, with a researcher now reporting there are fewer than 50 Maui’s dolphins left.
Dr Barbara Maas of the NABU International Nature Conservation Foundation and Otago University’s Professor Liz Slooten are presenting new research during discussions with 200 leading cetacean scientists at the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee in San Diego.
Research by Dr Maas reports the numbers of the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin, endemic to our waters, have sunk to an all- time low of between 43 and 47 individuals, and just 10 to 12 adult females.
She warned that unless the level of fisheries protection was increased significantly, the dolphins could become extinct in 15 years.
The subspecies of Hector’s dolphins, found in shallow coastal waters up to depths of 100m off the North Island’s west coast, have become a symbol for environmentalists challenging gill netting and trawling by commercial fishers, and Government oil and gas exploration block offers in habitat areas.
Earlier this year, Auckland councillors voted to oppose oil exploration in a sanctuary home to the dolphin, but stopped short of following Christchurch City Council and opposing any exploration.
Population numbers — which environmentalists had put at 55 and the Department of Conservation at between 48 and 69 — had dropped 97 per cent as a result of fishing since the 1970s, NABU said. A caretaker at an Auckland school suffered facial burns from a boiler yesterday.
The middle-aged man was taken to Middlemore Hospital in a moderate condition after the incident, initially believed to be a boiler explosion.
Emergency services were called to Greenmeadows School in Manurewa about 1.45pm.
Manurewa fire station officer Roy Williams said the man was burned by flames from the coal-fired boiler.
“One of the caretakers had fired it up in the morning and later on he went to check to see if it was working okay,” he said. “Unfortunately, when he opened an inspection cap, he was a little bit too close and his face got burned by the flames inside.”
Greenmeadows School board of trustees chairman Ross Barr said the school’s health and safety team would investigate. The boiler would not be used until then.
In 2009, Orewa College caretaker Richard Nel died from 90 per cent burns to his body when a boiler exploded.