The NZ dolphin is the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world, and they are only found here in NZ waters. They are the easiest dolphin to identify of all the dolphins here and this is because of their unique look. They have a rounded (some refer to as Mickey Mouse ears) dorsal fin, distinctive markings on their body and they are very small in comparison to other dolphins only reaching up to about 1.2-1.4m long. They are typically found in shallow waters close to shore.
Hectors dolphins and Maui dolphins are both NZ dolphins - the Maui dolphin is a subspecies of the Hectors dolphin belonging to "Cephalorhynchus" which is a genus in the dolphin family "Delphinidae".
4 species belong in this particular group and they are:
1. Hectors Dolphin
2. Chilean Dolphin
3. Commerson Dolphin
4. Heaviside's Dolphin
These dolphins are all found in distinct geographical locations and share similar attributes such as their blunt noses, small sizes and quite playful. Also they are all found in the Southern Hemisphere.
Hectors dolphins are listed as Endangered and the Maui dolphin is listed as Critically Endangered.
Females don't start breeding until they are about 7-9 years of age and generally only produce 1 calf every 2-4 years, so they have a slow reproduction rate - New Zealand has to step up its protection for these dolphins now to ensure them of surviving.
Set nets and trawling is the biggest threat to them. This year alone one single set net entangled 5 hectors dolphins off the Banks Peninsula - this is something that we cannot afford - and thats just 1 instance that was fortunately reported, however how many don't get reported??
And of course these are not the only marine life to suffer - there are other species of dolphins, seabirds, seals, penguins, sharks to name a few - there really is no place for this method of fishing anymore.
The protected areas for the Hectors and Maui dolphin is definitely no where near where it should be - we need there to be a complete ban on trawling and set nets in the complete area that they occupy - to read up more on this go to www.whaledolphintrust.org.nz and get behind their 100 m campaign - here you will see the areas that are protected and the range the dolphins go out to - they are coastal dolphins and their range depends on the depth of the water rather than the distance from the shore line - so extending full protection to 100 m would improve their chances of survival dramatically.