Experts urge stringent steps to protect Hector’s dolphins

July 1st, 2008 - 2:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, July 1 (IANS) The alarming decline in the numbers of Hector’s dolphins, one of the world’s rarest and most endangered species, requires even more stringent measures of protection, according to a new study. Without such measures, the study contends, the population of Hector’s dolphins would dwindle to 5,000 by 2050.

From about 30,000 some 40 years ago, their numbers have already dwindled to 8,000.

A slew of steps have been ordered to protect the animal, but this has only slowed down the decline, the study found.

The new steps proposed in the study include regional bans on set netting, trawling and drift netting in some coastal waters, increased monitoring of commercial fishing vessels and the establishment of four new marine mammal sanctuaries.

Total protection from gill nets and trawl fisheries in the coastal waters where the dolphins live would enable them to double numbers by 2050, to about half the original population size.

More than 200 scientists analysed research on the impact of new protection measures at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee in Chile.

The committee concurred that the new protection measures are a major step forward but noted that “additional measures are likely to be required to ensure recovery of the species”.

“They’re not enough, yet, but they’re a step in the right direction. Our research shows they’ll slow the slide towards extinction. But more will need to be done to achieve population recovery,” said Elisabeth Slooten of Otago University, co-author of the paper.

Hector’s dolphins are found only in New Zealand waters and are among the world’s rarest dolphins. They are classified as “endangered” — meaning they face a high risk of extinction in the near future.

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