Horomaka/Banks Peninsula is home to some of New Zealand’s threatened marine species, including the endangered Hector’s dolphin.

The Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary encompasses approximately 413,000 hectares and covers 389.31 km of coastline.

It extends from the mouth of the Rakaia River to the mouth of the Waipara River and out to sea 12 nautical miles from the coast (see map).

Fishery restrictions

The main fishery restrictions in place within the sanctuary are:

  • A year round ban on amateur set netting
  • Seasonal set netting for flounder is permitted in the designated Flatfish areas from 1 April to 30 September
  • There are also restrictions on commercial set netting and trawling.

Fishers are encouraged to respect the Amateur Fisheries Regulations and Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary Regulations.

Find out more about fishing regulations on the Ministry of Fisheries website.

Why is there a sanctuary here?

New Zealand’s first marine mammal sanctuary was created around Banks Peninsula in 1988, to protect the endangered Hector’s dolphins/upokohue (Cephalorhynchus hectori) from bycatch in set nets.

Banks Peninsula has been identified as a hotspot for Hector’s dolphin on the east coast of the south island.  Its many bays and harbours are an ideal habitat for Hector’s dolphins and for many other marine animals.

History of the sanctuary

When the sanctuary was first created in 1988, it covered an area of 1140 It extended from Sumner Head to the Rakaia River, and out to a distance of four nautical miles. Twenty years later (2008) the sanctuary boundaries were extended as it was recognised that further efforts to protect Hector’s dolphins were necessary. The NZ Gazette notice for a marine mammal sanctuary specifies the restrictions on activities within their boundaries.

Looking for Hector’s dolphin

Hector’s dolphins/upokohue are easily recognised by their rounded dorsal fin and black, grey and white markings. With a maximum length of 145 cm (60 - 70cm at birth), they are the smallest marine dolphin in the world.

Hector’s dolphins are naturally inquisitive and friendly to people. Small groups will bow-ride and play in the wake of boats. Summer is the best time to see dolphins around Banks Peninsula as they move close inshore to breed and raise their young. If you are in a boat when dolphins are nearby, make sure you slow down, especially if young dolphins are present as they are not good swimmers and there is risk of boat strike.

Marine mammal protection

All marine mammals are fully protected in New Zealand waters under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, which DOC administers.

If you see marine mammals stranded or in distress, please contact your nearest DOC office immediately.

Related links

NZ Gazette notice:

Back to top