Maui dolphin numbers rise 'encouraging'
A new study which puts the numbers of Maui dolphin as high as 75 is encouraging for the species' future, the government says.
It has released the figures from the study, by its own departments and Auckland and Oregon State Universities, which was carried out over the last two summers on the world's smallest and rarest dolphin, which only lives off the west coast of the North Island.
The preliminary results estimate the population at approximately 63 adults, with 95 percent confidence there are between 57 and 75.
A 2010-11 survey estimated the number of adults at 55, with 95 percent confidence there were between 48 and 69.
"These results are encouraging but there is no dispute the Maui population remains at a very low level and the Government remains committed to ensuring their long-term survival," Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said on Thursday.
"What it does show is that Maui numbers over the past five years have stabilised, which can only be good news."
Earlier this year Germany-based conservation group Nabu International estimated there could be as few as 43 Maui dolphins left and the species could be extinct within 15 years.
There are bans on using set nets along much of the North Island's west coast but the government has been criticised for not doing enough to protect the species.