Our native dolphins have run out of time.


The stalling tactics of the New Zealand government for the past 40 years have put them on the brink of extinction. Without decisive action the Maui dolphin will be extinct within 10 years, and the Hector’s dolphin won’t be far behind.

We’re asking the government to ban the use of gill nets and trawling nets in water less than 100 metres deep.

The current protections covers less than a quarter of dolphin habitat. That isn’t enough for them to survive, let alone recover from the brink of extinction.

Trawl nets lure dolphins and other animals in with fish, and then drown them. Gillnets are very difficult to detect and dolphins get entangled and drown.

The evidence is clear, the scientists are unified; we have to act, and we have to act now.

Anything less is a death sentence for our native dolphins.

Protection map (no background).png

Area where both gillnets and trawlers are banned.

Area where just gillnets are banned.

Hector and Maui dolphin habitat.


Only 8% of Maui dolphin habitat is safe from gill nets and trawlers.



Fewer than 50 Maui dolphins are left. Less than 5% of their normal population.



At this rate Maui dolphins will never recover. They will be extinct within 10 years.



National and international experts agree: this is our last chance to save our native dolphins.




Maui and Hector’s dolphins are only found in Aotearoa New Zealand. They’re small dolphins, up to 1.4 metres long, and have a distinctive rounded dorsal fin which makes them pretty easy to identify in the wild. They may be easy to spot, but their dangerously small numbers mean that unless you’re trying really hard, you might never meet a Maui dolphin.

They’re incredibly smart animals, with big brains and big personalities. They have complex social systems, use tools, and have a kind of language. They are playful, curious, and powerful mammals who form strong bonds with dolphins and with people.

Usually, you’ll find them in pods of 2-8 dolphins. These groups are often close together, and Hector's dolphins can form temporary social groups of 100 or more. Dolphin groups interact, and learn from one another, and then will split off again into new little groups of mates and calves, or larger social groups of dolphins.

Our dolphins are small, so their lungs are smaller than a normal dolphin. They can hold their breath for about as long as an adult human, which means they can’t dive too deep at any one time. This might be why they don’t tend to stray into water deeper than 100 metres.

Calves are becoming quite rare for Maui dolphins. Fertile females only have a baby once every 2-4 years. For Maui dolphins this means there is only a few new dolphins born each year. For Hector’s dolphin there are a few hundred babies in a good year, but those years are becoming more and more rare.

We started really paying attention to the populations of Maui and Hector’s dolphins in the 1970’s. Over the past 50 years Maui dolphins have dropped from around 1,700 individuals, to fewer than 50. Our current Hector’s dolphins are at just a third of those 70’s numbers, with about 10,000 left of a population of over 30,000.


We’ve seen in other endangered animals, that once a population hits the critically endangered numbers we see in Maui dolphins, they can be wiped out overnight. This is why we need to provide these dolphins the room they need to recover from the impacts of our decades of unsustainable fishing practices.