Māui dolphins are genetically distinct from Hector's dolphins and show slight physical differences
Image: Martin Stanley | ©


Māui dolphin was declared a subspecies in 2002. Follow its conservation story since then.



A DOC/MPI-commissioned study on Māui dolphin released at the end of 2016 reported that there were likely 63 adult Māui dolphins remaining, with 95% confidence that the number of dolphins over 1 year old was between 57 and 75 (see abundance estimate). The study used the same methodology used in the 2010/2011 abundance survey.



The Minister of Conservation, along with the Minister for Primary Industries, announced that the proposed variation would be implemented in full, alongside a package of protection measures to be implemented as part of the Māui TMP review. The package uses legislation from both the Marine Mammals Protection Act (1978) and the Fisheries Act (1996). This includes maintaining the interim protection measures from 2012.

View the decision and map of the variation.


Submissions closed on the consultation to vary the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary.


The Minister of Conservation announced his intention to consult on varying the Marine Mammal Sanctuary to include extra protection measures for Māui dolphin in the Taranaki region and seek submissions on his proposal.



Submissions closed on the Review of the Maui's Dolphin Threat Management Plan.


The report A risk assessment of threats to Māui dolphin (PDF, 6,850K) is published.

The Review of the Maui's Dolphin Threat Management Plan: Consultation Paper (TMP)  was published by DOC and MPI. This review process aims to reassess management measures based on updated information on the Māui dolphin population, the human-induced threats they are exposed to, and their vulnerability to those threats.


The Minister of Conservation and the Minister of Energy and Resources launched the Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Surveys Operations. This new Code is more stringent than both the previous guidelines and the marine mammal sanctuary regulations. The Code affords increased protection to Māui dolphin as it identifies their entire historic range out to 100m water depth as an Area of Ecological Significance (PDF, 1,128K), which triggers additional mitigation measures.

The report An updated, annotated bibliography for Hector’s (Cephalorhynchus hectori hectori) and Māui (C. hectori maui) dolphins (PDF, 2,240K) is published.


New interim fisheries restrictions in southern Taranaki came into effect on 28 July 2012 (see fisheries interim protection measures. These interim measures are to increase protection to Māui dolphins in the area while the TMP is reviewed.


An expert panel was brought together for the Māui dolphin risk assessment workshop. The results of the workshop informed the development of the options for Māui dolphins within the TMP consultation document.


DOC and MPI sought submissions on establishing interim measures to protect Māui dolphin in the Taranaki region.


A DOC-commissioned study on Māui dolphin released in 2012 reported that there may only be around 55 adult Māui dolphin remaining, with 95% confidence that the number of dolphins over 1 year old is between 48 and 69 (see abundance estimate).


Reported by-capture of a Hector's or Māui dolphin off Taranaki (see August 2011 - July 2012 incident update).


The original decision was reconsidered and the commercial set netting restrictions as proposed in 2008 were reinstated.


2008 set net prohibition area.
2008 set net prohibition area. View a detailed map (PDF, 390K)

The public and stakeholders (groups with interests in Māui dolphin conservation, i.e. fisherman and conservation groups) submited comments about the TMP, which were analyzed by DOC and MPI. Based on these submissions, a range of conservation actions were proposed and implemented to manage both fishing and non-fishing threats.

  • The West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary is established, with restrictions on seismic surveying and seabed mining.
  • The area where set netting and trawling is not allowed is increased. Commercial fishers challenged this decision.


The Hector’s and Maui's Dolphin Threat Management Plan (TMP) was developed jointly by DOC and the then Ministry of Fisheries, now the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The purpose of the TMP is to recognise human caused threats to Hector’s and Māui dolphins, and to come up with strategies to minimize or remove these threats. The TMP also sets out to identify research and monitoring to help Hector’s and Māui dolphins. View the Draft Threat Management Plan.


University of Otago researchers estimate the population at 111 remaining dolphins (95% confidence interval of 48-252) using extensive aerial surveys. (Note: Due to differences in methodology, this estimate is not directly comparable with the 2012 estimate). See Māui dolphin population estimate.


Set net controls were introduced by the Ministry of Fisheries (now the Ministry for Primary Industries) on the west coast of the North Island to protect Māui dolphins.


The West Coast North Island population of Hector’s dolphin is formally described as a new sub-species, the Māui dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui).

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