DOC administers a sightings database for Māui dolphin.

Māui dolphin sighting database

DOC administers a sightings database for Māui dolphin. It contains data predominantly from 1970 to the present, but also includes one sighting from 1922. This information comes from a number of different sources including public sightings through the:

This is a ‘living’ database and is updated as sightings are received and as sightings undergo a parallel validation process. Data may also be updated as data cleaning occurs and original files are discovered.

The online spreadsheet is updated on a roughly quarterly basis at the start of February, May, August, and November each year: 

Māui and Hector's dolphin sightings database spreadsheet October 2020 (XLS, 1,752K) 

Update October 2020: Downloads of previous versions of this data may have included some errors in the 'Region' field. The location descriptions and lat, long coordinates were correct. These errors have now been amended.

Note: As there can be multiple DNA samples from multiple animals for a single observation event, DNA information has been provided in a separate tab. All the samples from a single observation have been highlighted together. Use the Observation ID to relate them back to the observation data.

Māui dolphin sighting maps

Note: The data displayed in the maps has changed over time.

Map of Māui dolphin sightings from 2008 to June 2019
Sightings from the past 10 years showing validation categories 1-5, pending validation and not validated.
View the map (PDF, 3,697K)

Map of Māui dolphin sightings from May 2013 to June 2019
Sightings from the past five years showing validation categories 1-5, pending validation and not validated.
View the map (PDF, 3,591K)

DOC validation process

DOC and WWF contract an external scientist, independent to both agencies, to undertake validation interviews for Māui dolphin sightings reported to DOC and WWF.

These follow a validation system and interview process (PDF, 23K), including the 5 point scale, developed by Du Fresne (2010, PDF, 2,510K).

The 5 point scale:

  • Validation categories 1-3 are the most reliable
  • Categories 4 and 5 represent one of four scenarios:
    • a different dolphin species
    • a Hector's dolphin from the South Island
    • an interview was unable to be conducted
    • there were not enough details provided
  • "Pending validation" means we are awaiting results from the validator
  • "Not validated" represents sightings from before the validation process or were otherwise not validated for some reason

Key points of interest

  • From 1921 to December 2017 there have been over 1,200 reported sightings of Māui dolphin on New Zealand's West Coast North Island.
  • Sightings range from Dargaville to the New Plymouth area with some outlying sightings down the coast to Wellington, particularly along the Kapiti Coast.
  • The northern-most recorded sighting is a public sighting recorded in 2006 at Ripiro Beach, 5km north of Bayleys Beach. We do not know if southern sightings are of Māui or Hector's dolphins.
  • Most sightings within the Manukau Harbour are clustered around the outer region of the harbour, particuarly south at Hamilton and Cochrane's gaps.
  • There are also confirmed sightings within Wellington Harbour and Palliser Bay, but at least one of these was found to be a South Island Hector’s dolphin.
  • Māui or Hector's dolphins are also sometimes seen on the east coast of the North Island as far north as Bay of Plenty.

Video of Māui dolphin sightings


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