Māui’s dolphin, a subspecies of Hector’s dolphin found off the west coast of the North Island, is the rarest marine dolphin and has approximately just 63 individuals remaining in the wild. This critically endangered dolphin needs all the help it can get to recover from fisheries bycatch.
Whilst Māui dolphins have been studied by DOC for almost two decades, there are still some unanswered questions. It is not yet known where the dolphins go at night and during winter or how far and often they travel offshore.
DOC have been investigating new ways to study the dolphins and partnered with Auckland Council in 2016 for a pilot study to deploy two acoustic recording devices or CPODs; one in Manukau Harbour and one south of the Manukau Harbour entrance at Hamilton’s Gap. Māui dolphin were not recorded in Manukau Harbour but were frequently recorded at Hamilton’s Gap.
The data showed the tidal cycle affected the Māui dolphins’ presence, as did the movement of the sun throughout the day. The question of where they go at night remains unanswered but the pilot study has been a resounding success, in that acoustic monitoring of Māui dolphins clearly works well.
For more information on the pilot study methods and findings, check out DOC’s blog here.
For more information on how to help Māui Dolphin conservation efforts, see WWF New Zealand’s advice here.
For those looking to experience and swim with Hector’s dolphins, try the following companies in Akaroa: