WELLINGTON, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- International science and conservation groups have stepped up pressure on the New Zealand government to increase protection for the world's most endangered dolphin, appealing directly to Prime Minister John Key for immediate action.
The Maui's dolphin, which is believed to number just 55 and lives exclusively in New Zealand waters, would be extinct by 2030 as a result of fishing, they warned.
The president of the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM), an organization of 2,000 scientists in 60 countries, wrote to Key and other members of his Cabinet to seek a ban on gillnets and trawling in the Maui's dolphin habitat.
Helene Marsh said in the letter that fishing nets annually killed about 9 percent of Maui's dolphins aged over 1 year.
"Scientific advice often involves a degree of uncertainty, but in a situation such as this one involving a critically endangered subspecies delay to resolve uncertainty could have dire, irrevocable results," she said in the letter.
"I encourage you to act quickly and decisively to provide the leadership in marine conservation that the world expects of your country."
The letter also referred to scientific concerns expressed last year by the International Whaling Commission and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Germany-based Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union ( NABU) International said Thursday that a decision by the government on whether to increase the protection for the Maui's dolphins was almost two months overdue.
NABU International head of international species conservation Barbara Maas said New Zealand was becoming embarrassingly isolated amidst growing international interest and concern.
"With every passing day of inaction, Maui's dolphins are unnecessarily put at risk. The scientific evidence for an immediate zero tolerance approach to Maui's dolphin mortality is overwhelming," Maas said in a statement.
The main opposition Labour Party said Thursday the government could no longer ignore international outrage over the plight of the world's most endangered dolphins.
"John Key needs to realize that this is not just an environmental outrage, it is also economic stupidity. If New Zealand continues to ignore international opinion on this issue, we risk an international fishing boycott in our waters," Labour conservation spokesperson Ruth Dyson said in a statement.
The IUCN motion in September last year called on New Zealand to prohibit the use of gill and trawl nets in coastal waters where Maui's dolphins and the also at-risk Hectr's dolphins occurred up to a depth of 100 meters.
It was passed with 117 countries and 460 organizations voting in favor, and was opposed only by New Zealand.
The New Zealand government argued the motion had no scientific evidence to support the assertion that such a ban would protect the Hector's and Maui's dolphins.