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We work to save the world's smallest

and rarest ocean dolphins.

Around 20 Hector's have been reported killed each year by the fishing industry. Current rules say up to 20 can be killed in Canterbury alone, every year. That's unacceptable. WE CAN protect Hector's. Come on ECan, protect Hector's now.

Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders is a grass-roots New Zealand based Incorporated Society. We are volunteers who campaign for improved population status and protection specifically for Māui and Hector’s dolphins.


Māui and Hector’s dolphins are the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphins and are only found in New Zealand’s coastal waters. They are at risk from extinction mainly from entrapment in fishing gear – set and trawl nets. Their numbers have plummeted from around 30,000 Hector’s and 2000 Māui in the 1970s, to only several thousand* and around 54 now. Even the more numerous South Island Hector’s are in small fragmented subpopulations, that number as few as 40 individuals. Some Hector’s are unprotected altogether, and none have full habitat protection.

*This is an estimate for fisheries purposes and not universally accepted.


At Māui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders, we harness the care and energy of New Zealanders (and the world) to lobby local, regional and central government politicians; work with scientists, the Department of Conservation and other Government departments; and talk to the public and community groups and tourism providers, all with the aim of making the oceans safe for the dolphins so they flourish into the future.

We make submissions and give presentations, and attend government consultation processes to protect the species as a whole, as well as the Māui and Hector’s subpopulations found around the North and South Island. The dolphins need to be safe throughout their range, in 'dolphin corridors' between the North and South Islands, harbours and out to 100m deep. We support a protection regime for the dolphins that keeps them safe in all their habitat (red) instead of the existing marginal protection as shown in green.

We want better protection for Māui and Hector’s dolphins through a ban on seismic testing and other noisy and disturbing activities for oil, gas and mineral exploitation and harbour activities, apprpriate tourism management, pollution, boat strike.

Research shows Māui and Hector’s could be saved for $25million, and that New Zealanders are prepared to pay more in taxes and for their fish to save them.

See references at and


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