Survey shows higher numbers of Hector’s

  • Maggie Barry
  • Nathan Guy
Primary Industries Conservation

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry have welcomed a new survey showing the number of Hector’s dolphin is higher than previously estimated.

“A three year survey commissioned by the Minister for Primary Industries indicates the population of Hector’s dolphin is about 15,000 – this is up from previous estimates of around 7,000,” says Mr Guy. 

“The survey has been independently peer-reviewed and endorsed by scientists at the International Whaling Commission. This gives us an assurance the numbers are scientifically robust.

“The results of the survey will be one consideration in the ongoing risk assessment for the species, and will factor into the Hector’s and Maui’s dolphin Threat Management Plan which is due for full review in 2018,” says Mr Guy. 

The aerial surveys had two observers on each side of the aircraft independently searching for Hector’s dolphins.  The surveys involved 675 hours of flying and covered a total of 26,000 km.

The Hector’s and Māui dolphin Threat Management Plan (TMP) has been in place since 2008, and is a non-statutory document that identifies human-induced threats to the populations and outlines strategies to mitigate those threats.

“The Hector’s dolphin, along with its North Island subspecies, the Māui dolphin, is one of the world’s smallest dolphins and while this new population estimate is encouraging, the Government remains committed to ensuring we have adequate protections in place for both species,” Ms Barry says.

“Since 2008, the Government has extended the range of protections for the Māui dolphin. In 2013, set net restrictions were extended by 350 square kilometres.

“There haven’t been any confirmed Government observer sightings of Māui or Hector’s dolphins outside the protected area off the west coast of the North Island despite mandatory observer coverage on all set net vessels operating around Taranaki and a continued increase in observer coverage in the trawl fishery.

“A rigorous survey of the Māui dolphin population carried out by DOC, MPI and researchers from Auckland and Oregon State Universities over the past two years has now been completed and a revised population estimate based on this work will be published around October.

“If new information on threats to either species emerge, the Government could bring the TMP review forward if needed,” says Ms Barry.