Hector’s dolphin in Mangonui Harbour 7 October
Image: ©

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC has confirmed two sightings of the rare Hector’s dolphin in the Mangonui harbour last weekend and is asking locals and visitors to be on the lookout for the rare dolphin and report sightings to DOC.

Date:  14 October 2022

“This is the first confirmed sighting of a Hector’s dolphin on Northland’s east coast in 100 years. What is likely is the same dolphin was first sighted in Whangarei in early September, then Whangaroa Harbour the following week and just last week at Mangonui Harbour in the boating channel near the Mangonui wharf. It was observed from 9.30 am to 3 pm in the area,” says DOC Far North Operations Manager Meirene Hardy-Birch.

“This is an exciting sighting, so we are asking if locals and visitors see the dolphin, to steer clear allow the dolphin to enjoy the environment without hindrance or harassment.”

Following the sightings, DOC organised a marine survey team to observe the dolphin and collect samples for monitoring. Unfortunately, the survey team were unable to locate the dolphin.

If you see a Hector’s dolphin in any location in New Zealand please report it to 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Reports to DOC help build knowledge and understanding of the species. 

Hector’s dolphins are unique and easy to identify - they are grey and white, with black markings with a distinctive black rounded fin, shaped like Mickey Mouse’s ear. “If the dolphin has a rounded fin, call it in,” is DOC’s reminder message to the public on reporting on the species.

Hector’s dolphins were once found along the coast of most of the South Island as well as parts of the North Island. Today, Hector’s dolphin live in different sub-populations around the South Island. The Māui dolphin, a subspecies of the Hector’s dolphin, is found on the west coast of the North Island, mainly between Taranaki and Kaipara Harbour. Hector’s dolphins are only occasionally seen around the lower North Island, with several sightings scattered up the North Island east coast as far as Auckland.

Reporting a Hector’s dolphin sighting

  • Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) or email marinemammals@doc.govt.nz
  • Report the date and time of the sighting, GPS co-ordinates (if available), the time they spent near the animals, the direction the animals are moving, and descriptions of the location and activity of the dolphins.
  • Photographs and video are very helpful for us as well – it helps us confirm the dolphin species, and to look for identifying marks on individuals.

About Hector’s dolphins

Hector’s dolphins are classified as Nationally Vulnerable, with an estimated population of 15,700 individuals. Māui dolphins are classified as Nationally Critical, with a population of around 54 individuals (older than 1 year).


For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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