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New Zealand turns to drones to prevent Muaui dolphin extinction | Natural Issues

Wellington, New Zealand – In 2018, a skipper of jack mackerel mistakenly mistaken Māui dolphin beans in a seine bag off the coast of Taranaki in North Island in New Zealand.

The fisherman faced another challenge: Although dolphins are one of the most endangered species in New Zealand, if they cast their nets, they could violate the Fisheries Act in the country and be fined for fishing.

He decided to save the dolphins. And, in the end, he avoided the fine.

The sailor worked for the largest marine company in Sanford, New Zealand with about 20% of New Zealand’s fishermen. According to the company, catching the Māui dolphin is one of the worst things that can happen – second only to injuring (including the death) of an employee at sea.

“The Mui dolphins are a natural resource – our people live in the ocean and are very fond of the creatures that live there. They have a lot of respect for the environment, and while they may not break the laws, it can be very harmful to fishermen,” said Chief Operating Officer Clement Chia.

With only 63 dolphins left on New Zealand’s west coast, fishing companies in Sanford, Moana, New Zealand, WWF-New Zealand, scientists, and experts have agreed to raise funds to build a drone that can locate and track Mui dolphins using artificial intelligence.

NGOs, students, government and industry working together on a drone project to rescue a dolphin [Courtesy of MAUI63]

He hopes to collect data on dolphin habitats, population density, and systems, which can be used to inform government changes to address population decline.

Developed by the nonprofit organization MĀUI63, the first experiment, which began in 2019, shows AI expertise can distinguish Māui dolphins from other species with more than 90% accuracy. Flying at a distance of 120 meters (393 feet) with a 50x Optical zoom camera, the drone can detect, track, and record video for up to six hours.

The first experiments began in January 2021. Air flights in the coming months will be used to provide information on living conditions of animals.

The project began in 2018 when Auckland University of Marine biologist Rochelle Constantine realized that researchers would no longer be able to track dolphins a plane used to complete the annual survey was sold in Australia.

“Only 7 percent of New Zealand’s land is located on land, yet we have not been able to study the oceans. There is very little money to spend, ”he said.

“In the past, we had well-trained experts in the airline who come out once a year and report what they have seen. You had to rely on their expertise and their time. If he had not asked some questions, he would not have seen them clearly. ”

Cheap, safe

Airplanes and boats were expensive and inefficient, and they could not collect data during the winter months due to the weather. Drones are cheap, safe for people and natural resources and – in hindsight – what they get can be even bigger.

Constantine collaborated with technician Tane van der Boon, as well as doctor and drone enthusiast Willy Wang, and the MĀUI63 project was born.

Van der Boon argues that technology has the potential to gain more information on habitat, population, distribution, and dolphin systems, which can be used to create risk and policy development.

Ministry of Industries Director of Economic Policy Steve Penno said the government provided funding for the project because it was a new way to address the country’s economic crisis.

“Much of the work related to this project, as well as its implications, is being handled by MĀUI63,” he said.

Many details have raised concerns that they could be exploited or exploited, either by fishing companies or by tourism companies for commercial purposes.

Chia of Sanford says this is not for sale and confirms that the company has no operating share or resources for the project.

Maui’s New Zealand dolphin population declined sharply in the 1970’s as the use of gillnet in shallow water increased [Rochelle Constantine/Department of Conservation, University of Auckland]

“For us, the environment is important,” he said. “We do not want to be a company that catches endangered species. It is not good for us and the companies morally and ethically. We want to make it better, work harder, and use the latest technology. I will win. ”

The Māui people came to an end in the 1970’s when people started using gillnets in shallow water, and dolphins died of suffocation after being caught in nets. It wasn’t until the 1980s, when conservationists noticed a small increase in population, and found that the population was relatively small.

Constantine claims that fishing is not the only threat to the dolphin.

Insect repellent

The main danger is the death of toxoplasmosis – the parasite found in cat litter.

“Infectious pathogens can last a lifetime through cats – there could be one billion acne in a single cat [faeces], ”He said.

“Bacteria can survive in climatic conditions and cannot be destroyed. When it enters our water it is eaten by fish, which is eaten by a dolphin. From there it is said to cause paralysis and damage to the brain. ”

The virus also infects humans, where they can cause infections such as the flu and serious complications in unborn babies.

In 2013, former politician Gareth Morgan made waves around the world when he tried to fail to eradicate wild cats from a New Zealand political arena. While people may be affected, “it is not surprising that there is no political agenda to kill cats,” said Constantine.

Drones can deal with this problem, however.

“It will also show the dolphin’s movements, where they run or [the problem areas where Toxoplasma gondii] it is found, and that is where there is a great difference between the two.

More information from the drone could also help researchers deal with high-risk dolphins – toxoplasmosis – found in cat feces and swallowed by dolphins eating fish [Courtesy of MAUI63]

“This can be used effectively, it can help stop the extinction of the Māui dolphin, and if we can only assume that we can use it on other endangered species, it could be a game changer to save,” said Constantine.

The technical force has contributed to the integration of unprecedented levels of government, science and government institutions.

WWF-New Zealand CEO Livia Esterhazy says any party can have its own opposition but what it has said will move the country forward.

“Often, conservation efforts are in short supply. The time when they are asked to be interviewed or to try to determine the best course of action is when the animals are threatened. ‘Normal business’ is no longer an option, ”he said.

“Our vision is for human beings to live in harmony with nature. We want to ensure that these endangered species are protected, but we also need to ensure that humans continue to fish, in borders that ensure the environment is safe. We could all be in different camps but this will lead us forward. It’s incredibly fun. ”

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