Maui Dolphin by Marine Biologist Will Rayment

Maui Dolphin: Deep Trouble

“The world’s smallest, rarest dolphin lives in New Zealand. After the expansion of gill-netting in 1970, the population and range of Hector’s dolphin diminished rapidly. One extremely isolated subspecies, Maui’s dolphin, now numbers barely 100 individuals. Yet science has revealed that the species may yet recover, even from the brink of oblivion.” - by New Zealand Geographic writer James Frankham

Maui dolphins, or Aotearoa (New Zealand’s) North Island Hector’s dolphins, are Critically Endangered. What that means is they’re almost gone. In fact, there are now only 55 left. This is not OK.

Never heard of them? Ah, yes. This issue has clearly been suppressed by the New Zealand media and up until now they have gotten away with it. Well, not any more. For the New Zealand Government to allow this to continue is nothing short of abusive to anyone with a healthy heart and a mind—and even more so for the Maori people, for whom dolphins are sacred. When the decent humans of the world find out they too will be nothing short of shocked and outraged. Who doesn't love dolphins? I am collecting information about this issue and will continue to add to this page as materials are ready.

Don't believe this is happening? Take a look at the Hector's Dolphin Incident Database, and remember that all Maui dolphin are Hector's dolphins, and that they all matter just the same anyway. This catching and drowning dolphins in fishing nets thing is just not OK, period. It just isn't. What is WRONG with these people that they can't see that?

This Maui Dolphin Extinction Hub Page offers a full set of resources for understanding the upcoming extinction. I have created this page to help media professionals, supportive businesses, non-profit organizations and caring individuals to find key information quickly and easily. The page includes a hit list of key contacts and information, and what to do (campaigns, petitions, etc.) This page is constantly growing and there are already many more materials to publish. I am working as fast as I can to keep up. If you have materials to contribute, or are a media professional, please contact me at: zoe@cosmicsister.com.

“New Zealand is knowingly allowing an extinction. With only 55 Maui dolphin remaining, we are left no choice but to take strong action on a global level. Wiping out any species for the sake of perceived revenue loss is never, ever OK—let alone a dolphin species. Let alone a dolphin species endemic to your own country, sacred to your county’s native people, beloved by your country’s citizens. Shame on Prime Minister John Keys.” – Zoe Helene

“It is true what you say about the dolphin, they are our (Ngati Wai) tribal guardians and as such we have always had a close and spiritual connection with them. They are our tribal protectors on the moana (sea) and our people have a special ability to speak with them, so naturally we too are very concerned.” - Deirdre Nehua, Maori Poet, Activist and Seer

Dolphins are sacred to the Māori people, and Maui is an important deity. Maui created the North Island of Aotearoa (New Zealand) where the Maui dolphin lives. The North Island is known as Te Ika-a-Māui (The Fish of Māui). Read more about Te Ika-a-Māui on Wiki -- a fascinating read(!) Māori names for Hector's and Maui's dolphin include Tutumairekurai, Tupoupou and Popoto.

“A plate of fish is not worth the extinction of a beautiful and graceful species. The New Zealand government and the New Zealand Fisheries Commission should hang their heads in shame over their utter indifference to the virtual extinction of the rare and remarkable Maui dolphin. This situation must be stopped. Plate of fish be damned.” – Chris Kilham, Fox News Medicine Hunter

“It's a great tragedy that a creature so beautiful is caught in the cross hairs of unsustainable fishing practices. Though she may be the smallest of our dolphins - she [the Maui's Dolphin] is no doubt a great icon of our ocean - and a reminder that we don't need to martyr another species before we wake up to our senseless practices.” - Summer Rayne Oakes, Model-Activist & Environmental Entrepreneur

“The Maui’s population has been declining since the 1970s, and protection measures introduced in 2008 have not succeeded in turning the situation around. It is a national tragedy that our critically endangered dolphins are still dying needlessly in fishing nets. We need to act immediately to get nets out of the water, including harbors and estuaries, to protect these dolphins throughout their range. We can’t change our past to bring back species like the moa that are lost forever, but we must not, and will not, give up on our critically endangered dolphins. We know that solutions exist to save Maui’s, it is time the government acted on behalf of all New Zealanders to protect this precious national treasure. The world is watching.” Rebecca Bird, Marine Program Manager, World Wildlife Fund NZ

“The New Zealand Government must stop prevaricating, grow some balls, stand up to the fishing industries and act now.” - Pete Bethune, Founder, Earthrace Conservation

“The Threat Management Plan (TMP), developed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Department of Conservation, identifies bycatch in fishing nets, in particular gillnets and trawl nets, as the number 1 threat to Hector's and Maui's dolphins. This conclusion was the result of several years of consultation with the fishing industry and other interested parties, including many stakeholder meetings and discussions by a scientific expert panel. The fishing industry was represented at all of these meetings, including the expert panel. We have much more data on this conservation problem than for almost every other dolphin in the world.”

“Almost all fishing methods are perfectly safe. These include fish traps, hook and line methods. Basically all fishing methods except gillnets and trawling. There will be no need to stop fishing in the areas where Hector's and Maui's dolphins are found. Changing to selective, sustainable fishing methods will benefit not only dolphins, but also seabirds and fish stocks. This will be in the long term economic interests of the fishing industry. Everyone will benefit from using selective, sustainable fishing methods. - Dr. Elizabeth Slooten

Dr. Elizabeth Slooten is New Zealand's leading authority on the Maui and Hector's dolphins and the use of population modeling to estimate sustainable levels of marine mammal bycatch in fishing operations.

“To have just 55 of these wonderful creatures left is beyond even our worst estimates. Their extinction is really imminent now, within a few years. New Zealand is a civilized country, which markets itself as an unspoilt paradise. They must act before it is too late.”Dr. Barbara Maas, NABU - International Foundation for Nature

“Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori), is New Zealand’s only endemic cetacean, and on the basis of current knowledge, is the smallest and rarest of all marine dolphins in the world. Until 1970, there were an estimated 30,000 Hector’s dolphins around the New Zealand coast. Then everything changed. Commercial and recreational fishers began using nylon gill-nets, and Hector’s dolphins, which forage mostly in shallow coastal waters, became entangled in these and drowned. It is estimated that in just three decades, 70 per cent of Hector’s dolphins were killed nationwide.” - New Zealand Geographic's Maui Dolphin: Deep Trouble, by James Frankham

“The Government needs to act now to protect the critically endangered Maui dolphins. At this stage, talking is not enough. The net ban extension may impact the fishing industry, but the alternative is the extinction of the Maui dolphin species. The species will become extinct if more than one dolphin dies every five to seven years. Two Maui dolphins have died in the last five months.” - Gareth Hughes, Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Member of Parliament

“I recently spent two weeks travelling the length and breadth of New Zealand, in search of an outlandish menagerie of animals known as the “Small Five”. They may be less well known than Africa’s Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo) but they were more than worth every aching air mile to see. Akaroa is probably the best place to see one of the most beautiful and rarest dolphins in the world. Hector’s dolphin is found only in New Zealand and numbers have declined by about 75 per cent since 1970, owing to damaging fishing methods.” - Mark Carwardine, Zoologist and Wildlife Photographer

“I think they can recover if fishing impacts cease now. Survival of small populations is all about chance events and stochasticity—if they have a few good years they might be OK—if they have a few bad years they are probably doomed and there's nothing we can do about it. All we can do is control the things we can, i.e. the direct human impacts. Even then it might be too late, but we have to have the attitude that there's a possibility.” - Will Rayment, Marine Mammal Research Group, Marine Science Department, University of Otago, NZ (took the iconic photo of the leaping dolphin)

“Dolphins and set nets - a fatal combination. One family wiped out in minutes. An entire sub-species in about 30 years. Shame on New Zealand. I hope you enjoy your fish & chips because the fish comes from catching everything in the nets’ path, including the world’s smallest, rarest and loveliest dolphin.” - Christine Rose, Leading Dolphin Activist, NZ


Numbers can make a difference in all sorts of ways, including getting through political process red tape. These are all good and strong groups that are important:

Champion Freediver William Trubridge started this Save the Maui and Hector's Dolphin Petition on Change.org. Make sure to find a moment to watch his video message to the world, Hector's & Maui's Dolphins appeal by William Trubridge. It is very moving. William is a native New Zealander.

Produced by Peggy Oki, Origami Whales Project Founder and Director, this campaign as a powerful visual way of expressing worldwide public opinion to urge the New Zealand government to take immediate measures. A photo of you, along with a selected image of a Maui's or Hector's dolphin, acknowledges specifically that you want to save these precious dolphins from extinction. Join Let's Face It on Facebook.

Please also sign the Save the Smallest Dolphin - Avaaz Petition. Avaaz—meaning "voice" in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.


Keep up with news, information, progress and setbacks on these key campaign websites.


  • Dr Liz Slooten and Dr Steve Dawson Help Protect Hector's and Maui's
    Excellent work by two leading marine mammal biologists who are gathering data on dolphins in New Zealand.
  • World’s Insatiable Appetite for Fish Decimates Wild Fish Population
    Humans ate 130.8 million tons of fish in 2011. The remaining 23.2 million tons of fish went to non-food uses such as fishmeal, fish oil, culture, bait and pharmaceuticals. The human consumption figure has increased 14.4 percent over the last five years. And consumption of farmed fish has risen tenfold since 1970, at an annual average of 6.6 percent per year. Asia consumes two thirds of the fish caught or grown for consumption. EcoWatch | Worldwatch Institute | August 16, 2012
  • Some of New Zealand's Department of Conservation data Department of Conservation's work with Maui's Dolphin.
  • This map on NABU's website was created by the New Zealand Department of Conservation Maui's Dolphin Range versus Protection clearly shows the Maui's dolphins range.
  • Current New Zealand Tourism Stats: Key results for the year ended March 2011
    The extinction of any species would and should harm the NZ tourist industry. Tourism plays a significant role in the New Zealand economy in terms of the production of goods and services and the creation of employment opportunities. Tourism expenditure includes spending by all travelers, whether they are international, resident householders, or business and government travelers. International tourism expenditure includes spending by foreign students studying in New Zealand for less than 12 months.


Sea Shepherd:

Scientific American:

International News:

VOYAGE END: Dave Rastovich is congratulated on his efforts by Maui’s dolphin advocate and former Auckland Regional Council Rodney representative and Rodney deputy mayor Christine Rose of Huapai

Stuff NZ:

  • Dolphins Boost Paddler's Courage
    DELWYN DICKEY | stuff.co.nz | December 18, 2012
    Mr Rastovich, a founder of the international marine life conservation group Surfers for Cetaceans, joined forces with Kiwis Against Seabed Mining and Protection of the Maui's Dolphins for the trip. Photo (above)
  • NZ Knocked Back on Ocean Health Index, Michael Daly | stuff.co.nz | August 16, 2012
  • Maui's Dolphin Found Dead in Taranaki
    KIRSTY JOHNSTON AND MICHELLE ROBINSON | stuff.co.nz | April 29, 2012
    This is the second dolphin found dead in Taranaki this year. Another, a female, was accidentally killed by a fisherman in January. The finding came after submissions on laws to further protected the endangered dolphins closed on Friday. The laws want to extend the current ban on set nets along the west coast of the North Island and also extend a marine mammal sanctuary designed to protect the dolphins. The fishing industry will argue against the ban, saying the dolphins have not been seen in the Taranaki area for years.

Featured Stories:

Scoop NZ:

  • New Zealand Natural Products Industry Hits $1 Billion There are many other opportunities for commercial growth in New Zealand that are truely sustainable and that do not murder wildlife. Check this out: “The world’s love of New Zealand’s natural products has driven the industry to new heights.A New Zealand Trade and Enterprise study has revealed that the New Zealand natural products industry has exceeded $1 billion in revenue.” - Natural Products NZ, January 2012
  • Protect Last 55 Adult Maui’s Dolphins Now (Scoop)

New Zealand Herald:




The term BY-CATCH is not just a word to make this horrible reality easier to sweep under the rug, and the Maui and Hector's dolphins aren't the only animals being caught and killed and steadily wiped out.

Other stories about how New Zealand fishing industry is not sustainable:

  • Trawlers 'Plundering' Fish Stocks
    Officially targeting mackerel, boats are taking everything in their path. See documentary (below/next).August 2012
  • NZ Knocked Back on Ocean Health Index, Michael Daly | 16/08/2012, stuff.co.nz
  • The Price of Fish
    documentary ‘investigates the way foreign charter fishing boats are causing dwindling New Zealand fish stocks, abusing crews, doctoring catch reports, and dumping illegally’. Officially targeting mackerel, boats are taking everything in their path.August 2012. Go to google.com and search 'NZ SLAVE SHIPS' and see how much comes up. Just do it. Yikes.


Fighting against large corporate powers can be tough work. Words of appreciation are always welcome.

  • Earthrace Conservation Organization aims to identify marine conservation issues, and intervene where and when necessary to protect and defend threatened marine ecosystems world-wide. Through direct action and education, and by involving local communities, governments and businesses, it will encourage respect and guardianship of our oceans and all animals that depend on them. Earthrace Conservation will galvanize a global movement to speak out for the preservation of marine life everywhere. Join Earthrace Conservation Organization on Facebook.
  • New Zealand's Green Party is urging the Government to do more to protect critically endangered Maui dolphins. Read Govt Criticized Over Maui Dolphin Response, published in ONE News (NZ) Wednesday March 14, 2012
  • Surfers for Cetaceans is an Australian based organization committed to activating ocean-minded people everywhere to support the conservation and protection of whales, dolphins and marine life. It's through compassion, awareness, education, media and dedicated interventions that they will accomplish this goal. They seek to be a human voice for and defender of cetaceans worldwide.


Tell them exactly what you think and feel---they need to hear out passion and outrage and they need to hear it straight. If these individuals speak up for the Maui and Hector's Dolphins there is NO repeat NO political or corporate entity in New Zealand that could withstand the pressure.

And don't take 'too busy' for an answer because all we really need is a quote from them. A strong, clear quote they sign off on that gives us the right to publish online for media to pick up and pull from. A quote that clearly communicates that killing off any species but especially a species of dolphin and even more so a sacred dolphin for ANY avoidable 'reason' is simply not to be tolerated. This would take them no time at all to compose and send to me (zoe@cosmicsister.com) so I can post it here for the media to pull from and to send out to all parties fighting for the dolphin.

The President of the United States of America is up for re-election. His re-election website claims that 'as a grassroots organization' our input (that means you, me, and our friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, etc.) will 'always be the backbone' of their campaign. Tell them this matters to you, and it should matter to him. Tell him the world is watching and that this must not be allowed to happen and that it sets a precedent. Tell him no marine mammal has ever been rendered extinct due to human causes, and that he must not let it happen on his watch. Remind President Obama that we depend on him to be there for us and that the people and the wildlife of New Zealand need him to come to their aid. TELL HIM.

Please send a heartfelt plea to The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall and Princes William and Harry. Ask them not to allow Sea(FIC) to bully the New Zealand Government into letting a species of dolphin be wiped out. Don't be afraid to tell them that you love New Zealand and would hate to see New Zealand's global reputation destroyed or for New Zealand to go down in history as the Extinction Capital of the World -- because it will be, and that's the truth.

New Zealand may swear they're 'no longer a Colony' but they remain a Commonwealth Country and any quick glimpse at local magazine stand shows that at least the 'masses' still have keen interest in and strong ties to The Royal Family. The Commonwealth comprises fifty-four of the world's countries across all six inhabited continents. The members have a combined population of 2.1 billion people, almost a third of the world population, of which 1.17 billion. That's a vast outreach.

UNITED WE SAVE: Individuals and organizations on this page are dedicated to this cause. This is not about fund-raising or organizational politics or professional competition: this page is about trying to save the Maui and Hector's dolphin before it is too late. This page acts as a ‘hub’ or 'portal' for outraged dolphin lovers, concerned world citizens, activists, media professionals and anyone else seeking information about this very serious situation. Please send any news, tips, information and quality content you’d like to add to zoe@cosmicsister.com. Let’s do this thing!

The term "By-Catch" is not just a word to make this horrible reality easier to sweep under the rug. Net fishing in New Zealand and any areas where precious sealife must range in order to feed and breed—and simply live freely, as is their right—is unacceptable. Wiping out an entire species of anything for the sake of 'revenue' is shamefully sick, sad thinking. Share your outrage with New Zealand. New Zealand is a small, isolated country, and they depend on the global economy. Wherever you live in the world, you are part of that economy. If enough people shout out loud enough, the powers that be in New Zealand will be forced to listen. Please don’t wait—this is a time sensitive matter.


SPEAK UP. Timid messaging clearly doesn't work. These people have received many hundreds of thousands of messages about this issue and they simply do not do what needs to be done.

Prime Minister John Key
Emails: j.key@ministers.govt.nz, and john.key@national.org.nz
( +64 ) 4 817 6800 ( Parliament )
( +64 ) 9 412 2496 (Electorate )
Also, leave a comment on his website: www.johnkey.co.nz

David Carter, Minister for Primary Industries
Email : d.carter@ministers.govt.nz
Phone : (+64 ) 4 817 6809
Fax : ( +64 ) 4 817 6509

Kate Wilkinson, Minister for Conservation
Email : k.wilkinson@ministers.govt.nz
Phone : ( +64 ) 4 817 6819
Fax : ( +64 ) 4 817 6519
This is a list of New Zealand embassies around the world. Click on the relevant country and then “Contact us” to find phone numbers and email addresses: http://www.nzembassy.com/

And while you're at it, tell them what you think about conservation professionals who accept and enjoy high level political positions then knowingly allow this to continue. Tell them this isn't good enough, and wake up and to rise to the challenge take---or bloody well resign already! TELL THEM WHAT YOU THINK. They need to know, and they need to hear it from millions of people like you around the world.

Demand that they: "Protect the dolphins in West Coast harbors out to the 100 metre depth contour, down to the South Island (Golden & Tasman Bays) and to provide observers and monitoring on commercial fishing boats."