Fishing companies Moana New Zealand and Sanford Limited have made an extraordinary move to save Māui dolphins.
Without urgent action, the world's smallest and rarest marine dolphin will disappear from our waters forever.
Support our work protecting our last 63 Māui dolphins with a symbolic adoption.
Support the Māui dolphin with Challenge 55
But they could soon disappear forever - unless we act now. Scientists estimate that just 63 individuals survive today, having found a small increase from 55 in November 2016. This increase in numbers is no excuse for inaction though, as they are still on the brink of extinction. The Māui dolphin population has plummeted from around 1500 in the 1970s, when deadly gillnets were widely introduced to our waters.
Fishing with nets has pushed Māui dolphins to the
brink of extinction.
Entanglement in gillnets and capture by inshore trawl
fisheries is estimated to be responsible for more than
95% of all human-caused Māui dolphin deaths.
Oil and gas exploration and activity in Māui habitat
also poses a growing threat, with the government
granting an increasing number of permits inside the
dolphin's known range.
Other potential threats include boat strike,
pollution, mining, acoustic disturbance and
Māui dolphins, Cephalorhynchus hectori maui, were recognised as a distinct subspecies of Hector’s dolphins in 2002, as a result of genetic research by New Zealand scientist Dr Alan Baker.
Before then, they were called the North Island Hector’s dolphin.
The dolphins’ common name is Maui’s, after the Māori name for the North Island – te Ika a Māui. They are also known as Māui dolphins, usage WWF now favours in line with the Department of Conservation. The Māori name for Māui dolphins is popoto.
With a total population estimated at about 63 individuals over the age of one year, Māui dolphins are the world’s rarest marine dolphin. The Department of Conservation's abundance estimate released in 2016 had a 95% confidence interval of 57-75, meaning scientists are 95% sure that there is between 57 and 75 individuals excluding calves.
It is very unlikely that more than 10 calves exist at any given time with a population level this low. It also means there needs to be about 20 mature adult females (over 7 years of age) for the population to recover.
The fate of the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphin is in our hands. If we don’t act now, we will see this amazing creature disappear forever.
We advocate for better protection for Māui dolphins.
This includes engaging in the Threat Management Plan processes and Māui Dolphin Research and Advisory Group and advocating strongly for a real sanctuary for Māui dolphins where they can recover their population in safety from set nets, trawl fishing, and potential new threats including mining and seismic surveying.
We also have a strong focus on advocating for industry transition to dolphin safe fishing methods, and calling for government to support this transition.