In Depth

New Zealand's endemic dolphins are hanging by a thread

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Science  10 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6325, pp. 559
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6325.559

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Summary

Like Mexico's embattled vaquita porpoise, the Maui's dolphin may be making its last stand. The world's smallest and rarest dolphin, the Maui's lives off the west coast of New Zealand's North Island and is down to about 60 individuals, from 2000 in the 1970s. Scientists and nongovernmental organizations blame its death spiral on gillnets and bottom trawlers: legal fishing methods that snare it by accident. Also in a population tailspin is the Hector's dolphin, a close cousin of the Maui's that lives off New Zealand's South Island. Since the 1970s, experts say, Hector's numbers have fallen from 50,000 to about 10,000. Fishing nets appear to be driving much of that decline, too.

  • * in Auckland, New Zealand