Māui Dolphins Are On the Brink of Extinction

New Zealand is often seen as a very clean, green and natural paradise to many overseas audiences. Even when they arrive on our shores, our visitors seldom know the truth. New Zealand’s wildlife is in critical condition with many native species either on the brink of extinction, or endangered.

The Hector and Māui dolphin population is in a crisis here in New Zealand, and few are talking about it. The Department of Conservation report a mere 63 individuals of Māui dolphins are left, making them the rarest in the world. Although Hectors are doing a little better – often found in the South Island and Akaroa Harbour – populations are concentrated between Haast and Farewell Spit in the west, around Banks Peninsula in the east, and Te Waewae Bay and Porpoise Bay/Te Whanaga Aihe in the south.

What's the situation right now?

Humans and sea life have co-existed for centuries. Māori have relied on the ocean to survive for thousands of years and it’s importance is often described in myths and ancient stories. With the introduction of motor-powered boats, oil, industrial fisheries, nets, unregulated fishing zones and fracking to name a few, sea life has taken a massive hit with numbers drastically declining.

Hector dolphins are the world’s smallest species of dolphin. They rarely exceed 1.5m in length, their dorsal fin is a distinctive rounded shape, they weigh between 40 to 60kg and live for about 20 years. All these traits make them extremely fragile to human-induced fishing and tourism.

As such, Department of Conservation have reported that the Māui dolphin (which is only found in the North Island) is now at its lowest numbers of around 63 individuals.

The southern Hector dolphin (a key attraction in the Akaroa Harbour and Southland) are also in serious trouble with many tourism focused boats and vessels disturbing their homes and even causing frequent boat strike – which is seldom reported as it is seldom seen. Ironically, the same boats venturing out to see these animals also put them at risk of boat strike.

Residents numbers in New Zealand is at an all-time high causing more demand for fish foods. Our tourism industry is booming and now brings in another 14% increase on ocean-based tours. These combined with more seabed testing and oil drilling has made the Hector dolphin’s home an extremely dangerous place to be.

As these unique dolphins do not venture into the depths or further out to sea, they are trapped between an audience wanting fish food, and another hoping to see them before they become just that.

For the New Zealand government, legislative changes have been hard to implement in the past due to worry on the economic impact of tighter restrictions to fisheries. As scapegoat for one of our biggest industries, Fisheries New Zealand, is “land-based disease”. An unproven excuse for the dropping decline – something scientists are currently out to disprove.
Less than 30% of the dolphin's habitat is currently protected and time is quickly running out for our beautiful sea life.

What's being done?

The Threat Management Plan (AKA, TMP) is being put into action once more where the public can have their say. This public consultation allows Parliament to consider ideas and steps to help make significant changes in order to save the species.

This unique opportunity allows people of New Zealand (and the world) to voice their opinions and provide ideas the Government can work with. Although, be warned, many of the questions and suggestions in the TMP can be overwhelming if not quite irrelevant to those unaware of fisheries in NZ.

To combat this, the best way is to vote for the widest distance applicable to push fisheries out. In the TMP form, you will see multiple choice questions where they offer greater protection areas of 100m deep and 20 nautical miles offshore for fisheries (creating distance between the dolphin habitat). It also seeks opinion on the size of an ocean reserve up in the north island. So, as you read, always opt for the larger distance if you're unsure.

The deadline for the submission is August 4th, meaning there is plenty of time to make noise and show that it’s unacceptable we’re in this position in the first place. 


Can't do the form? Email the PM & win $500!

We don’t expect everyone to be able to fill this out or find the time (it can take up to 30 minutes). So, our next solution is to voice your opinion 1-2-1 via email.

You should contact Eugenie Sage: Minister of Conservation, Stuart Nash: Minister of Fisheries and Jacinda Ardern: Prime Minister of New Zealand. In your email, state that they should strongly consider extending protection for the Māui and Hector dolphins throughout their habitat, in all waters less than 100m deep.

Make your email short and sweet (these are very busy people), but make it personal. As a consumer, citizen and tax payer, you have all the rights to kindly ask them to act on this in a significant way.

Their email addresses:




To reward you for this support, we’re giving away a $500 Kathmandu voucher to the best email we’re copied in to. So, make sure you Cc us into the mail you send, and we’ll contact you should we think the most effort and attention was put into the email. (Offer ends August 14th 2019). 

Can they be saved?

Most certainly! We now have a government with an interest in conservation and the natural world. Our prime minister has made countless comments on her support for eco-friendly farming solutions and measures to cut back plastic. Although there is much work to be done, it appears that this government is allowing us to speak and provide ideas.

As a tourist, you hold as much responsibility as us Kiwis! As tempting and inviting it is to book a boat tour to see whales and dolphins in the wild, consider a tour from the shoreline or in a kayak. Hector’s are frequently seen from the shore at the right times of the day. Boat engines and the propellers are heard for miles by the dolphin’s sensitive sonar and can seriously disturb them. Although scientist often use boats, their numbers compared to tourism is minimal.

The Hector dolphin lives in an environment with few predators and plenty of food. It’s their extremely fragile nature that has put them at risk thanks to us humans, but we can help them bounce back by simply giving them the space. Like all native creatures in New Zealand and afar, it’s the space that provides them time to thrive.

New Zealand is a magical place with surroundings so epic they’ve appeared in movies and religious manuscripts as place worthy for the gods. Our wildlife is almost spiritual with the looming, creeping footsteps of a kiwi, or the genius and cheeky keas who fly ahead with their red, orange and green feathers.

Our oceans are ancient and hold relics from quieter times. They're a refuge for migrating creatures like Albatross, whales, sharks and dolphins.

To consider that we, the so-called protectors of this land could fail them, well, that will be a historically disappointing outcome.

Act now; fill the form; email the people; spread the word.

#bushtribe #mauidolphins #hectordolphins #nzdolphins

Follow @nzwhaledolphin & @kaikourawildliferescue for more ways to help.

Official webpage for the TMP: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/consultations/hectors-and-maui-dolphins-threat-management-plan-review/


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