Most New Zealanders would support expanding a fishing ban to protect the Maui's dolphin, according to a new poll released by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF).
The poll, carried out by Colmar Brunton, found 60 per cent of respondents would be more likely to vote for a political party that expanded a ban on set and trawl nets to cover the "entire area that Maui's dolphin live in".
Just seven per cent said it would make them less likely to vote for that party while 23 per cent said it would make no difference. Ten per cent said they weren't sure.
The Maui's dolphin is a critically-endangered subspecies, with just 55 individuals over one year old thought to be left. It lives only on the North Island's West Coast.
The International Whaling Commission's scientific committee has said the government's current protection measures fall "significantly short" of its recommendations to ensure the dolphins' survival.
It recommends a ban on set and trawl nets in the dolphin's habitat, which it says runs from Maunganui (north) to Whanganui (south) out to 20 nautical miles.
A set net ban is already in place in a smaller stretch of coast out to seven nautical miles between Dargaville and the Waiwhakaiho River and, following an amendment late last year, out to two nautical miles between the Waiwhakaiho River and Hawera.
Labour and the Green Party have agreed the committee's recommendations for expanding the ban should be implemented.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith has agreed that set nets are the greatest threat to the subspecies' survival but told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report that existing measures are adequate to protect the area where the dolphin is found.
There have been verified sightings outside the existing area of protection, WWF New Zealand Head of Campaigns Peter Hardstaff said today.
"It's critical that we do the maximum possible to protect the Maui's dolphin rather than the minimum we can get away with."
He called on the government to support the commercial fishing industry to shift to dolphin-friendly methods, perhaps by adjusting the quota management system.
This month's poll also found 51 per cent of respondents would be more likely to vote for a party that spent money to support the industry's shift to different methods, while 27 per cent said it would have no effect and 10 per cent said it would make them less likely to vote for a party.
The poll took place from June 5 to June 15 as part of a wider online survey and surveyed 1031 New Zealanders aged over 18, weighted by age, gender and region to reflect New Zealand's online population. It has a maximum margin of error +/- 3.1 per cent at a confidence interval of 95 per cent.