NORTH DUNEDIN, New Zealand -- Ecologists in New Zealand have shown for the first time that Marine Protected Areas long advocated as a way of protecting threatened marine mammals actually work. Their study, based on 21 years' monitoring and published today in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, reveals that a marine sanctuary off the coast of Christchurch has significantly improved survival of Hector's dolphins one of the rarest dolphins in the world.
Covering 1170 km2 of sea off New Zealand's South Island, Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary was designated in 1988 to prevent the dolphins being killed by gillnet and trawl fisheries.
Over 21 years between 1986 and 2006, researchers conducted regular photo-identification surveys of Hector's dolphins, photographically capturing 462 reliably-marked individuals, whose survival they studied.
According to one of the team, Dr Liz Slooten of the University of Otago: "We can identify individual dolphins from their battle scars which range from small nicks out of the dorsal fin to major scarring following shark attacks."
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