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Tilikum, the father of Nakai. © Paul Wigmore

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WDC survey finds New Zealanders are willing to pay to protect rare dolphins

An independent survey, commissioned by WDC, has revealed that 80% of New Zealanders not only want to see more protection measures for dolphins, they are also willing to help pay for them.

Every year, between 110 and 150 New Zealand (Hector’s) dolphins die in fishing nets and, over past decades, the population has plunged from 50,000 to only 10,000.

The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) has created marine reserves to protect the dolphins but they cover only limited areas and are failing to save this most vulnerable species from further decline.

At a conference in New Zealand this week, WDC is calling on the government to establish larger protected areas.

The call clearly has the backing of New Zealanders, who are willing pay a tax or higher prices on fish to cover the costs of the new reserves.

The survey found that:

• 63% of respondents would pay more for their fish to reduce the numbers of dolphins killed in nets.

• 57% support the establishment of a large marine protected area covering the areas out to 100m depth where the dolphins live.

• 53% would support a ‘dolphin protection tax’ as an annual levy on every tax return.

Erich Hoyt, WDC Research Fellow and a lead author of the study says:  “If ever a government had a mandate to protect a species, this is it.”

Mike Bossley, Australasian science director for WDC says: “With dolphins dying every month in nets, it can’t be good for the short- or long-term ‘100% pure, clean and green’ image of New Zealand to have to deal month after month with so many carcasses of a beautiful dolphin found nowhere else in the world. It’s time to take serious steps before it’s too late.”