With more Kiwis purchasing boats and getting out on the water this summer, Department of Conservation (DOC) is asking people to report any sightings of Hector’s and Māui dolphins.
These smallest species of dolphins are only found in New Zealand and their dwindling numbers have been a cause of concern.
“The easiest way to make a report is through the ‘Hector’s Dolphin Sightings’ app,” said Kristina Hillock, technical advisor at DOC.
“This app allows you easily find your location, make a report, and upload a video or photo for verification, all in one place.”
The app is available on both App Store and Google Play and can be used to report sightings of other marine mammals as well, such as whales, other dolphins, and seals.
“Any reports are useful,” said Hillock. “The more data we have, the better we can protect our marine species.”
Sightings can also be reported by calling 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) or via the DOC web.
Hector’s and Māui dolphins can be easily identified, as they have a distinctive rounded dorsal fin and small, rounded black flippers, and are much smaller than other dolphin species, growing to only about 1.5 metres long.
Māui is only found on the west coast of the North Island. Hector’s are mostly found around the South Island.
With a handful of sightings off the east coast of the North Island as far north as the Coromandel Peninsula, DOC is urging boaties to be extra vigilant there.
All sightings are verified by an independent marine mammal scientist. DOC then uses the data to better understand the distribution of these rare dolphins. Understanding where these animals are is absolutely critical to protecting them.
“Once we can confirm that they are in a certain area, we can respond with plans for their conservation. For some of these areas we have reported sightings, but not enough to know if there is a resident population or where they’ve come from. Your reports will help us learn more about this species,” said Hillock.
“Taking a photo or a video is the best way to help us verify a sighting.”
DOC is also asking that anyone who spots a stranded or dead Hector’s or Māui to report it immediately via the DOC HOT phone line. An early response means the best opportunity to gather information and determine the cause of death.