Hector's dolphin calf numbers off Banks Peninsula are at their lowest levels in 35 years, an expert says.
The comments come as the government continues to delay measures to protect them from getting caught in fishing nets.
Professor Liz Slooten said normally four percent of endangered Hector's spotted in surveys were calves.
But this summer, that number had fallen to one percent.
Their tenuous state illustrated the need for a threat management plan, she said.
"I'm hoping that the delay is resulting in really good discussion to come up with the most effective solution possible. I'm hoping it's not a bad sign."
Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash said a proposal would be taken to cabinet "soon."
Seafood New Zealand said it was not aware of a drop in calf numbers.