Hector dolphin swimming

The best chance to protect Māui and Hector’s dolphins


The New Zealand Government will soon begin a public consultation process for its Threat Management Plan for Māui and Hector’s dolphins. The consultation will run for two months after which the Government will consider submissions and finalise the plan.

This is the best opportunity we have to remove and manage the many threats to these beautiful animals and avoid the extinction of New Zealand’s iconic dolphin species.

The official population estimate for Māui dolphins is between 57 and 75, and, in 2018 alone, at least four Māui dolphins were found dead on North Island beaches. Some of the small South Island Hector’s dolphin sub-populations number as low as around 40 individuals.

The problem is simple – much of the Māui and Hector’s habitat is unprotected from human threats. Areas they live in, travel through and need to survive, have limited or no protection.

Because of the fishing activity within their habitat, dolphins continue to get caught in nets. They drown in these nets -- sometimes as whole family groups. In 2018 alone, several groups of between three and five dolphins were killed in nets, and by official estimates at least 52 dolphins will die this way every year.

These “kiwi of the sea” deserve our respect and protection

The Threat Management Plan process is our best chance to save Māui and Hector’s from extinction.

The Government’s Threat Management Plan must protect Māui and Hector’s throughout their habitats, as well as the corridor areas joining different dolphin families. The plan must:

  • Remove gill, set and trawl nets from the whole of the Māui and Hector’s dolphin habitat out to 100m;
  • Avoid, remove and properly manage other threats within these areas including seismic testing, and noisy marine activities such as pile driving and mineral extraction;
  • Monitor and regulate activities to address risk of boat strike and habitat disturbance;
  • Apply improved monitoring and compliance including onboard observer coverage and cameras on the fishing fleet.

Māui and Hector’s dolphins are New Zealand icons

Māui and Hector’s dolphins are the smallest (and among the rarest) dolphins in the world and are only found in New Zealand. These much-loved dolphins are friendly and often interact with surfers and swimmers.

Māui and Hector’s dolphins are a New Zealand “taonga” (a highly valued treasure) and are celebrated in our culture and art. They deserve our respect and protection.

They have beautiful colouring with grey bodies and black, round dorsal fins. They are highly intelligent, playful, social and live in family groups. However, human activities, in particular gill set net and trawl fishing, have pushed them to unsustainable levels. 



Time is running out: Too few Māui and Hector’s dolphins left!

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