Is it too late to save New Zealand's endangered dolphins?

New Zealand today instituted new rules intended to protect endangered Hector's and Maui's dolphins, but conservationists fear the measures won't do enough to save the two species from extinction.

The new rules ban net fishing and trawling in certain areas where the dolphins are most often sighted. The government will also increase dolphin monitoring in those waters. According to the Associated Press, the rules "are expected to cost the country's coastal fishing industry $62 million and as many as 295 jobs over the next five years."

In a news release, Care for the Wild International Chief Executive Dr. Barbara Maas commended the steps taken to protect the dolphins, but warned that the loss of even a single Maui's dolphin could send the species into extinction:

"Hector's dolphins cannot sustain more than 10 deaths a year from all causes combined. The recently published NIWA Report showed that at least 110-150 animals die in commercial gillnets alone. The annual death toll for Maui's dolphins, the north island subspecies of Hector's dolphins, is even worse... Maui's dolphins will become extinct if more than one animal is killed every 5-7 years. But at least 12 animals have died in the past 7 years."

Fishermen, of course, aren't happy. Owen Symonds of New Zealand's Seafood Council told ONE News "The Maui's dolphins are currently protected in their own habitat and so this decision just puts a whole lot of people out of business."

Only 7,000 Hector's dolphins remain in the waters around New Zealand. Maui's dolphins are in even worse shape -- just 111 animals, including 30 breeding females. The two species are indigenous to New Zealand and do not exist anywhere else.