Marine Research and the One Ring Net
WWF is using the funds for TheOneRing.Net to help fund two projects; saving the North Island Hectors Dolphin and developing a campaign on albatross. A description of the projects is set out below.
The North Island Hectors Dolphin
New Zealand is home to one of the worlds smallest and rarest marine dolphins, the North Island Hectors Dolphin. There are thought to be approximately 100 left in a population that possibly numbered in the thousands at the beginning of the century. They are critically endangered. The range of the dolphin has been reduced dramatically and they are now only found along the north west coast of New Zealands North Island. The decline in the North Island Hectors Dolphin population is thought to be caused by commercial and recreational set net fishing near the coastline in their shallow water habitat.
WWF-NZ has been working with stakeholders to implement a ban and fisheries management system for set net fishing in the area where the dolphins are found. WWF is also working with Auckland University on research which will help to more accurately assess the size of the surviving population and their demographic makeup.
In parallel to the research, WWF will run a WWF Strandings and Sightings Network asking for public assistance in ascertaining the range and behaviours of the dolphins. The WWF public education program targets recreational set net fishers in the northwest of the North Island, and will be run through local schools in the area and community groups. The first of these education programs begins in November, and the WWF Strandings and Sightings Network will start operating at the same time. This is timed to coincide with the beginning of the summer which is the best time to sight the dolphins and when everyone is at the beach.
For further information see www.hectorsdolphin.org.nz or www.wwf.org.nz
WWF is currently investigating the status of Albatross populations in the Southern Ocean. Recent information shows that there has been a substantial decline in their numbers. This decline has been expected for some time because large numbers of albatross have been caught by fishing boats in the southern oceans over the last 30 or more years – it is estimated that an albatross is drowned on a fishing line every 5 minutes. But because the numbers caught were not well known and because the birds spend such large amounts of time at sea getting a good estimate on populations has been very difficult. Only recently has the state of the albatross really become apparent and it is a bad news story.
Albatross are amazing birds. They have a wing span of 8 feet and routinely soar at speeds of 160 km/hr, often traveling at this speed for hours on end. Many albatross routinely cirumnavigate the globe. When they are soaring their heartbeat is equivalent to being at rest – soaring is as easy for albatross as sitting on a nest.
Albatross are very slow breeders and even a loss rate of 1% each year will drive the species to extinction. If a parent is killed whilst feeding a chick, the chick will also die. In many cases the loss of one albatross acutally means the loss of 2 albatross, i.e. the chick also.
WWF is becoming increasingly alarmed by recent data that is showing huge declines in albatross numbers. WWF is using funding from TheOneRing.Net to help pull together the necessary background information to develop a campaign and to help fund the campaign. WWF plans to launch the campaign in mid 2001.