HEC­TOR’S DOL­PHIN

Scuba Diver Australasia + Ocean Planet - - Inspirational Images Of 25 Ocean Species Under Thr - Text by Ter­ence Koh Pho­tos by Lind­say Wick­man

The world’s small­est and rarest dol­phin, the Hec­tor’s dol­phin has dis­tinct fa­cial mark­ings, a short and stocky body, and a round dor­sal fin shaped like an ear. Found only in the wa­ters of New Zealand’s South Is­land, Hec­tor’s dol­phins are listed as En­dan­gered, with num­bers es­ti­mated at fewer than 7,500, while a North Is­land sub­species – known as Maui’s dol­phin (Cephalorhynchus hec­tori maui) – has a pop­u­la­tion of likely fewer than 100 in­di­vid­u­als and is con­sid­ered Crit­i­cally En­dan­gered. Maui’s dol­phins have de­clined due to in­shore fish­ing where they are of­ten in­ad­ver­tently caught in bot­tom-set gill nets made out of light­weight monofil­a­ment fi­bres that are hard to de­tect when the dol­phins are chas­ing fish or mov­ing around with­out echolo­ca­tion. Hec­tor’s dol­phins are ac­tively at­tracted to trawl­ing ves­sels and are of­ten seen fol­low­ing them and even div­ing down into nets to pick off fish. By-catch ac­counts for more than 95 per­cent of hu­man-caused deaths in Maui’s dol­phins. The first ma­rine pro­tected area (MPA) for Hec­tor’s dol­phin was set up at Banks Penin­sula, off the east coast of the South Is­land, in 1988. In 2008, gill-net­ting was banned within four nau­ti­cal miles of the east and south coasts of the South Is­land, and re­stric­tions on min­ing and seis­mic acous­tic sur­veys have also been en­acted to pro­tect them.

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