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Hector’s Dolphins Near Coromandel Show More Protection Needed: Dolphin Defenders

The Department of Conservation has confirmed that an adult female and juvenile Hector’s dolphin who visited the Firth of Thames and spent several weeks near Coromandel last year, were originally from the South Island.

Conservation group Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders Chair, Christine Rose, says “that’s a long journey through unprotected waters for tiny, threatened, dolphins”.

“There have been many recent confirmed Hector’s sightings across the North Island East Coast, including Hawke’s Bay, East Cape, the Bay of Plenty, the Firth of Thames, and also as far north as Mahurangi Harbour, the Bay of Islands and Whangaroa Harbour too. In these waters, the impacts of fishing are largely unmonitored. But with confirmed, repeated dolphin presence, more protection is needed”.

“Māui and Hector’s used to be abundant all around New Zealand. The East Coast has always been Hector’s home. The fact that Hector’s are regularly seen there confirms the need for better protection throughout their range”, says Rose.

“Protection for Hector’s and Māui dolphins is inadequate within their core habitat. These core areas have shrunk as the impacts of trawling and set netting have taken their toll, decimating their numbers. The destruction of the species continues because of inadequate protection from this most significant threat, with 47 dolphins reported killed since November 2021, and 17 reported dead in this year’s fishing season. At least 11 of them are known to have been killed by the fishing industry.”

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“Every dolphin's life matters” says Rose. “Māui and Hector’s used to be the most abundant dolphin in New Zealand waters. But now they are among the rarest marine dolphins in the world. There are only around 48 Māui left, and some South Island groups are as few as 40 individuals. They all remain at risk from indiscriminate fishing practices, as well as other threats”.

“There’s evidence that climate change and warming seas will drive Hector’s and Māui beyond the current minimal protection limits, putting them more at risk.” “More protection is urgently needed, throughout the dolphin range, that’s out to about 100m deep, includes estuaries and harbours, and the East Coast of the North Island, where there is currently no protection at all.”

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