Hector’s & Maui’s Dolphins
Hector’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) comprise two genetically distinct populations. One subspecies (Cephalorhynchus hectori hectori) is distributed around the South Island of New Zealand and the Maui’s dolphin subspecies (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) distributed mainly on the western side of the north island of New Zealand.
Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins are the smallest and rarest marine dolphin species on Earth. Fully mature, adults range in length from 1.2–1.6 m and in weight from 40–60 kg. At birth, Hector’s dolphin calves have a total length of 60–80 cm and weigh 8–10 kg.
Hector’s and Maui’s are New Zealand’s only endemic (native) dolphin and, unlike many of the world’s cetacean species, aren’t migratory.
Fishing with set gill nets and trawls has driven the Maui’s dolphin to the very edge of extinction, with the last official count identifying just fifty-five animals of breeding age. Because there are so few individuals left, the species can only cope with a single fatality (on average) as a result of human activities every 10-23 years rxcare.net. Yet these fishing methods kill an estimated five Maui’s dolphins each year. Latest estimates predict the Maui’s dolphin will extinct inside 15 years.
The Maui’s dolphin is the world’s rarest and smallest marine mammal and recognised by the IUCN as “critically endangered” (only one step away from the next category, which is “extinct”). It is not too late to save these species, despite their very low numbers is we can have set net commercial and recreational fishing banned in their habitat.
Hector’s south island species is recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “endangered”. The establishment of marine reserves and bans on set nets in their habitat has seen numbers recover from a low of just 1,800 to an estimated 13,000. This is both wonderful and proof that conservation works.