The boundaries of the sanctuary extend alongshore from Maunganui Bluff in Northland to Taputeranga Marine Reserve on the south coast of Wellington.

The sanctuary’s offshore boundary extends from mean high water springs to the 12 nm territorial sea limit. The total area of the sanctuary is approximately 20,574 km2.

The sanctuary was established in 2008 as a part of the Hector’s and Māui dolphin Threat Management Plan, with some restrictions on seabed mining activities and acoustic seismic survey work.

Variations to the sanctuary

In 2020, The Minister, Hon. Eugenie Sage, varied the sanctuary following a review of the Hector’s and Māui Dolphin Threat Management Plan.

The variations included:

  • extending the southern boundary from Oakura Beach, Taranaki, to the south Wellington coast
  • a ban on seabed mining with an exemption for existing exploration and mining permits, and
  • a ban on seismic surveying with exemptions for:
    • existing permits
    • urgent hazard assessments
    • decommissioning of infrastructure
    • “Level 3” category seismic surveys as per the seismic surveying code of conduct, and
    • nationally significant activities that have received approval from the Minister of Conservation and Minister of Energy and Resources
  • seismic surveying in sanctuaries under exemptions must comply with the 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine mammals from Seismic Survey Operations.

Code of conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals from seismic survey operations.

In 2013, The Minister, Hon Dr. Nick Smith, varied the sanctuary to prohibit commercial and recreational set net fishing between 2 and 7 nautical miles offshore between Pariokariwa Point and the Waiwhakaiho River, Taranaki under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. The area covers 350 sq km of the sanctuary. 

The purpose of the variation was to provide greater protection to Māui dolphin from the risks resulting from set net fishing (commercial and recreational). This decision was made following a public submission process.

Marine mammal protection

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

Find out what to do if you see a Māui dolphin.


West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary map (PDF, 1,501K)

NZ Gazette notice


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