New research suggests New Zealand’s Maui’s dolphins – the smallest and rarest marine dolphin in the world – could be extinct within 15 years.
Currently experts believe that there are only 43 to 47 dolphins left and of those only 10 are mature females capable of breeding.
The Maui dolphin is found only in waters off New Zealand.
German conservation organisation Nabu believe that more should be done to prevent dolphins dying in fishing nets. This includes banning across the dolphin’s entire habitat rather than only limited areas.
A study that includes the above information is being presented by Nabu at a meeting of the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in San Diego, US.
The Maui’s dolphin is a subspecies of Hector’s dolphin that only lives in shallow coastal waters off New Zealand’s North Island; the other subspecies of Hector’s dolphin is found around the South Island and is more abundant.
Numbers of dolphins have declined since the 1970s.
Scientists say the main threat is fishing using gillnets or trawling, which they estimate kill five Maui’s dolphins each year.
In 2010/2011 an estimated 59 individuals remained, which fell to 43-47 in 2014/2015.