NZ's waters described as Māui dolphin 'killing fields'

Māui dolphin advocates say there's no time for more research - problematic fishing must be banned.

The Government is investing $17 million to install cameras on up to 28 fishing boats for better monitoring.

"The final number requiring cameras will depend on whether they continue to fish in the area using trawl or set nets," Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said on Friday. "The final number may be fewer as some of these vessels may choose to fish elsewhere."

But an advocate for the endangered species, Christine Rose, says that's an underwhelming first step.

"Those dolphins are dying now. They're dying on Labour's watch. The International Whaling Commission and scientists are calling consistently for better protection, and this does not deliver better protection."

It's estimated there are just 63 Māui adults left in New Zealand waters. There were approximately 2000 in 1971, according to environmental watchdog Sea Shepherd, which estimates up to four are killed each year in bycatch.

Rose says the Government needs to remove set and trawl nets from Māui habitats completely.

"It does make us wonder why interim solutions haven't been provided, even though there are grounds to do that given the oceans are like the killing fields out there."

The 'killing fields' is a term generally used to describe places where the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime killed hundreds of thousands of people in the late 1970s.

It's expected consultation will start on the Māui dolphin threat management plan in the coming months. Rose says there might not be time.

"The US National Oceanic Agency is currently considering a petition by Sea Shepherd to ban New Zealand fish imports into the US because of the unsustainable levels of bycatch in the Maui habitat."

The Green Party wants cameras "on all fishing boats as soon as possible".

Rose says taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for additional regulation.