Hector's dolphins
Image: Dina Engel and Andreas Maecker; | ©

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


Visitors and residents enjoying the Tasman-Marlborough coast this summer are being urged to report sightings of the nationally vulnerable Hector’s dolphin.

Date:  20 December 2021

One of the smallest dolphin species, the Hector’s dolphin population is estimated to be about 15,000, but they face threats from fishing, the disease toxoplasmosis, boat strike and the noise associated with human activity on and in the ocean.

Hector’s dolphins were previously found all along the coast of most of the South Island.

Their largest current populations are now found along:

  • the west coast between Jackson Bay and Kahurangi Point,
  • the south coast between Toetoes Bay, Porpoise Bay and Te Waewae Bay
  • the east coast between Otago and Marlborough.

Kirstie Knowles, the Department of Conservation’s Marine Ecosystems Manager, says there is particular interest in sightings of Hector’s dolphins around the northern South Island.

“We’re urging people enjoying the coast and sea around the Marlborough Sounds, Golden Bay and Tasman Bay to report any sightings of Hector’s dolphins,” she says.

“Hector’s are easily identifiable due to their rounded dorsal fin – the description we often use is it looks like one of Mickey Mouse’s ears – and their grey and black markings.”

People who are out boating or on the coast who see a Hector’s are urged to take a photograph of the dolphin, and pass it on to DOC via a social media channel, or through our online form.

Report a sighting of a Hector's dolphin online.

“By passing on photographs and details of where people see Hector’s dolphins around the northern South Island, it helps build our understanding of how the dolphins use this part of the country and inform future planning for marine protection,” she says.

People can also report sightings of Hector’s dolphins via DOC’s Facebook and Instagram channels.


For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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