New Zealand dolphins to be listed as endangered

New Zealand dolphins to be listed as endangered
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Dolphins are getting new protections from the federal government.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed Friday to list New Zealand dolphins as endangered.

The Maui’s dolphin is endangered, the agency said, while the South Island Hector’s dolphin is a threatened species that is “likely to become” endangered in the near future, due in part to tourism.

"We have determined Maui’s dolphin is currently in danger of extinction throughout its range,” the agency said.

"The Maui’s dolphin faces serious demographic risks due to critically low abundance, a low population growth rate, a restricted range, low genetic diversity, and ongoing threats such as bycatch in commercial and recreational gill nets,” it added.

Tourism in New Zealand may impact the South Island Hector’s dolphins.

"There is some evidence that commercial dolphin-watching vessels and swim-with-dolphin operations cause behavioral changes in Hector’s dolphins,” the agency said. 

However, the NMFS discounted a 2012 study that claimed tourism-related “boat strikes, noise, and displacement” posed threats for these dolphins.

The NMFS will not establish a critical habitat for either dolphin species because they live in the waters surrounding New Zealand, where the agency has no jurisdiction.

The public has 60 days to comment.