MPI launches investigation into Hector’s dolphin deaths

Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has launched an investigation after the discovery of 2 dead Hector’s dolphins in separate parts of the country.

A member of the public found one dolphin on a Greymouth beach last month and reported the finding to the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Another dead Hector’s dolphin was found near Banks Peninsula by a member of the public on Sunday.

MPI Compliance Investigations Manager, Gary Orr, says the deaths are very concerning and there are indications the dolphins may have been subject to human interference.

Both were, also, not reported as is required under the law.

"MPI and DOC are investigating the circumstances surrounding both mortalities.

"Our investigation will look to identify everyone who was fishing in the areas prior to the discovery of the dolphins.

"The people who discovered them did the right thing by reporting them to the appropriate authorities. We encourage anyone in a similar situation to do the same. Any dolphin death is one too many."

Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, anyone who kills or injures a marine mammal must report the event.

"The penalties for failing to report a capture like this are significant. For a commercial fisher, it’s a fine of up to $100,000. A recreational fisher faces a fine of up to $10,000. We take this sort of offending very seriously," says Mr Orr.

"MPI is working closely with our colleagues at DOC to ensure we get to the bottom of this and to hold to account, the person or people responsible."


Recent and extensive surveys have found there are approximately double the number of Hector’s dolphins in the sea (around 15,000) and that they range in deeper waters than previously thought.

Hector’s dolphins, however, remain listed as endangered. MPI and DOC work collaboratively to manage the impacts of both commercial and recreational fishing. A range of restrictions on commercial and recreational fishing are currently in place to manage fishing-related mortality of these marine mammals.

MPI and DOC have designed a Threat Management Plan that identifies all human-induced threats to the dolphins including fishing, vessel traffic, oil spills and other factors. The plan also implements management measures to help mitigate against those threats. 

There are wide-ranging closures and restrictions on commercial and recreational fishing. This includes more than 6,000 square kilometres of trawl net fishing restrictions around the South Island, and almost 9,000 square kilometres closed to set netting.

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