Hector’s dolphins are endemic to New Zealand, meaning they are only found in New Zealand’s waters. The species is divided into two subspecies (based on genetic differences), one of which occurs principally in South Island waters (Hector’s dolphin), and the other in the waters of the north-west coast of the North Island (Māui dolphin).
The Department of Conservation New Zealand Threat Classification System ranks Māui dolphin as “nationally critical” and Hector’s dolphin is classified as “nationally endangered”.
Both subspecies have also been classified according to the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Under the criteria, Hector’s dolphin is listed as “endangered”, such that the best available evidence indicates that this subspecies is considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
Māui dolphin has been classified as “critically endangered”, such that the best available evidence indicates that this subspecies is considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
Public and government concern over the effect of human induced mortality on Hector’s and Māui dolphin has led to the development of a draft Threat Management Plan to help protect these species.
The draft Threat Management Plan was scheduled to be reviewed in 2013. Following the updated estimate of Māui dolphin abundance and the mortality of a dolphin in a set net off the West Coast of the North Island in the first half of 2012, the Māui dolphin portion of the Threat Management Plan was reviewed in 2012/13.
View a timeline of research and protection efforts for Māui dolphin since their recognition as a subspecies in 2002.