Hundreds of sightings of rare Hector's and Māui dolphins reported after plea from DOC

6:59 pm on 6 March 2022

Hundreds of Hector's and Māui dolphins have been sighted around Aotearoa this summer, with people keeping an eye out for the distinctive markings and rounded dorsal fins of the endangered cetaceans.

Hector's dolphin.

About one in four of the 350 reported sightings were Hector's dolphin sightings in the top of the South Island. Photo: 123rf

It comes after the Department of Conservation (DOC) put a call out asking for people to report sightings of Hector's dolphins along the northern coastlines of the South Island, where little is known about the populations that live and range there.

DOC marine species manager Katie Clemens-Seely said in the two months to February, it received almost 350 sightings of Hector's or Māui dolphins around the country.

Around 85 of those, roughly one in four, were Hector's dolphin sightings in the top of the South Island.

In the same period last summer, DOC received approximately 150 reported Hector's and Māui dolphin sightings, 32 of which were Hector's dolphin sightings in the top of the south.

Clemens-Seely said the percentage of sightings from the top of the south was similar between summers, but the quantity of sightings from around the country had more than doubled.

"This is great to see and we very much appreciate so many people reporting sightings."

Clemens-Seely said reported sightings, photos and details of where people saw Hector's dolphins around the northern South Island, helped to build our understanding of how the dolphins use this part of the country and inform future planning for marine protection.

She said prompt reporting of any dead or beach cast Hector's or Māui dolphins was also important as it enabled DOC to send the body for examination and hopefully determine the cause of death and other important information.

In the past four months, nine Hector's dolphins have been found dead around the South Island.

Seven of the dead dolphins were calves and the most recent discovery was a Hector's dolphin with its tail end missing at a beach near Mikonui, at the end of February.

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