Hector's Dolphins - North and South

Category Archives: Hector’s Dolphins

Hector’s Dolphins – North and South

How much do you know about the different Hector’s Dolphin populations around the country? Where exactly do they live? As an ecotourism operator local to Canterbury, we are obviously guilty of focusing on the 1000 or so dolphins that live around our harbours. Banks Peninsula is of special importance to us, being our home for nearly 40 years. Fortunately, Hector’s Dolphins can be found all around the waters of New Zealand. Today’s blog aims to help you understand a little more about other populations of Hector’s Dolphins beyond the Banks Peninsula area.

NORTH ISLAND DOLPHINS

You may not be aware of an incredibly rare subspecies of the Hector’s Dolphin known as the ‘Maui Dolphins’. They are very similar, but are thought to have been isolated from each other for around 16000 years. Māui dolphins have very slightly larger skulls than Hector’s dolphins and a longer, wider rostrum or snout. With only 56 individuals alive today, they are the rarest marine mammal on the planet. They live in a very small area on the western side of the North Island. The entire species’ survivability rests on 9 female dolphins of calf-rearing age.

 

Hector’s Dolphins are rarely sighted in the North Island. This is why it’s so important we look after the Maui’s Dolphin subspecies. They are only found on the west coast of the North Island from the New Plymouth area to Maunganui Bluff. Despite their extreme rarity, Maui Dolphins are still in huge danger of being caught in nets from commercial fishers. Bans only exist a few kilometres off shore, but Maui Dolphins go far beyond this area. With the Maui dolphins being even rarer than the kākāpō, should we be risking the death of a single animal, when each one is essential to the overall survivability of the species?

WEST COAST DOLPHINS

As seen in the map on the right, Hector’s Dolphins can be found almost all around the coasts of the South Island.

Black Cat Cruises have always pushed for more protection in our local waters from fishing nets. But we’re still leagues ahead of the West Coast. Namely, nothing in the recently released TMP addresses the areas along the West Coast. Whilst this area has a lower concentration of Fishers, it is unacceptable that they can still operate here almost unhinged. Pictured below are the current areas which ban trawl netting on the West Coast. This will remain completely unchanged following the integration of any of the proposed Threat Management Plan’s options. This area is the least documented area when it comes to Hector’s Dolphins. However, it doesn’t take a marine biologist to see that there are massive areas where Hector’s Dolphins are threatened by trawl netting. Set net bans are only enforced a few kilometres offshore, and don’t go far enough to cover the dolphin’s habitat.

NORTH OF THE SOUTH ISLAND

The Northern tip of the South Island is also home to a large proportion of our remaining Hector’s Dolphins. Alongside Akaroa and Kaikoura, this area provides the best chance for one to encounter a Hector’s Dolphin. However, net-fishing is also common in this area. Pictured below are the current areas which ban trawl net fishing (blue is permanent and red is seasonal). The seasonal ban is an interesting compromise between fishers and conservationists; It protects Hector’s Dolphins in the times they are most likely to be in those areas, whilst still giving Fishers a chance to make a livelihood. The seasonal ban could be an immediate but temporary solution for waters which are currently open to fishers all-year round. This would reduce the chances of Hector’s dolphins being caught as New Zealand gradually transitions to complete bans in waters less than 100M deep. This is what the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has recommended, and we currently remain within the 8% of countries which have ignored their advice.

THE SOUTHERN TIP

The bottom of the South Island is home to the smallest population of Hector’s Dolphins, possibly in the low hundreds. However, fishing is a popular industry in Southern towns, and dolphins have certainly been caught in fishing nets in these areas. The Northern and Southern tips of the South Island have had some expansions to restrictions, similar to what will happen around Banks Peninsula. Further restrictions to Trawl-netting (such as smaller net openings and a slower speed) may be enforced in additional areas.

Globally, scientists are saying we need to put aside 30% of our oceans for biodiversity to remain. Only 0.4% of the ocean New Zealand control is protected, according to Livia Esterhazy (WWF NZ). Hector’s Dolphins are far more than a beautiful animal for humans to enjoy. They are an apex predator and without them, the entire ecosystem of New Zealand’s coasts would crumble. If states like California and countries like Finland can fully ban set-nets, what’s New Zealand’s excuse?

WHAT CAN YOU DO RIGHT NOW?

Did you know that there is less than a week left for public submissions to the Ministry for Primary Industries? Please click on this link, follow the instructions, and in less than 3 minutes, YOU can make a difference. If enough like-minded people email their opinions on their Threat Management Plan, (we have a template you can use) the MPI will have to listen and make positive changes.

Click Here to Help the hector's dolphins of new zealand

Help stop the world’s rarest dolphins from dying in fishing nets

hectors dolphin

Hector’s Dolphins SOS….

We can never know how many of the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin’s die in fishing nets every year. Many reports are under-estimated and require self reporting by fishermen.

Even so, some organisations claim up to 150 Hector’s dolphins are killed in nets each year.

Fair to say, the Hector’s and Maui dolphins are still in need of urgent help.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has recently asked the public to help them decide how Hector’s dolphins can be further protected from fishing nets around the South Island. They’ve outlined 4 options, and in this blog we will explain why option 4 is the best for saving lives, whilst also asking for additional measures to be added. 

 

Anyone, including you, can submit which option they support and why. It is due by 6 December 2021 and can be submitted via email dolphinTMP@mpi.govt.nz or by this survey.

 

If you want more information on the four options, you can read the Ministry for Primary Industries 50 page report, or watch this video (starts at 5.15) but we’ve summarised it below.

We’ve been advocating for additional protection for the dolphins for some time. Some new fishing restrictions were brought in last year, but they were far from perfect. You can read more about our take on the 2020 protections here. 

In particular, we were very concerned that the plan opened up a ‘death zone’ off Akaroa Harbour. As of now, fishers can use nets outside of Akaroa Harbour. And is some months inside the harbour too.

 

The Options from Ministry for Primary Industries

Option 1:

Do nothing. The Ministry themselves accept this is not an option.

Option 2:

A plan to ‘work together’. Fishers will try to stop catching dolphins, and when they do, they must report it. This involves the use of monitoring cameras on fishers’ boats. If they keep catching dolphins, the ministry will give advice and maybe suggest some extra preventative measures. The issue here is that there are no enforced obligations to change fishing habits. It might take years for real change to take place. In the meantime, dolphins will continue to die. It’s like choosing not to install fire alarms in your first home. Then, only after it burns down, do you decide it’s a good time to take some preventative measures. It’s too little, too late.

Option 3:

Will look at making some changes to trawl fishing in certain areas of the South Island. Namely, reducing the speed of boats with nets attached (to 4kph), and making the net opening smaller (1M height). These measures, as admitted by the report itself, may not even make a difference. The success of these supposed ‘preventive’ measures are all based on seven anecdotes from fishers. This is an extremely small sample of evidence, which also has no scientific backing. We’d rather not put our faith in a maybe. 

Not only this, but option 3 keeps the death zone right outside of Akaroa harbour open. Look at the maps below. The yellow areas on the left map show the current areas where trawl fishing is banned. The map on the right shows orange areas where extra restrictions will be imposed, but the gap between the orange creates another death zone. Given what we’ve said about the doubt we have of these restrictions, this option has few merits overall.

hectors dolphin

Option 4:

Increases the areas which ban set nets, as seen in the figure below. This means larger areas where dolphins are safe from set-nets, which can make an immediate difference to the number of dolphins caught. The extended areas can be seen in the dark blue areas highlighted in the map below. This is good news and one which Black Cat  Cruises and the Ministry for Primary Industries support. While it’s the best option of the four, it is still lacking. For a start, it makes no changes to trawl-net fishing, which is just as dangerous. Trawl-fishers will continue operating right outside of Akaroa harbour.

akaroa dolphin map

What we’re going to ask for on top of Option 4

All four options are written on the basis that a certain amount of ‘by catch’ is acceptable to New Zealanders. We don’t think that’s right. The plan calls for a goal to catch/kill around 33 dolphins a year on the East Coast of the South Island each year. It’s claimed that’s a sustainable goal and it will maintain the population of dolphins to 80% of historic levels. We want to stop the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of dolphins, and in doing so make the population soar back to 100% of historic levels.

akaroa hectors dolphins

If we’re serious about making a real positive impact on the dolphins, there should have been an additional option….

The International Union for conservation of nature (ICUN) made a clear recommendation years ago. They called for consistent protection throughout NZ waters less than 100 m deep; a ban to set and trawl net fishing in these areas. The map below shows what they have in mind, with red being areas that can be net-fished commercially, and green being areas where net fishing is banned.

At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September 2021, the Director General said that the vast majority of IUCN Resolutions have been acted on. Only 8% of the Resolutions are being ignored by the relevant countries. Unfortunately, New Zealand is part of this group of 8%. This is an embarrassment.

We will ask for the ICUN’s option to be added to the proposed list, as the other options do not make enough of a difference. Also, the plan is completely silent on the ability to be able to set nets in the upper parts of Akaroa and Lyttelton harbours,  Pigeon Bay and Port Levy from April to September which we know are a clear threat to dolphins. That is very disappointing, and we will ask for these areas to be specifically banned to all net-fishing.

 

Conclusion

Whilst we appreciate the ability to engage further on dolphin protection, the options (with the exception of closing the death zone) won’t have much impact on dolphin protection.

We have chosen to focus this blog post primarily on the areas surrounding Banks Peninsula. This is because it’s the area directly relevant to Black Cat Cruises, and where we have the most experience with the current issues of ‘bycatching’. Continue to follow our social media for a blog post in the future which addresses bycatching nation-wide.

We need a future-focused conservation option. We need more significant protection. We need the population of Hector’s Dolphins to soar above the endangered level. We need the option to implement full protection out to 100m in depth (where Hector’s Dolphins live).

 

What would we like you to do now?

If you’d like to consult on the plan, please go ahead. Add your voice to the conversation. Black Cat Cruises will be supporting option 4, and asking for additional protection in line with the IUCN option – limiting nets throughout NZ waters less than 100 m deep.

We understand that fishers need to catch fish. However, putting bans in these small areas, which are already so close to the shore, will keep our beautiful native dolphin species alive.

CLICK HERE TO HAVE YOUR SAY 

Hector’s dolphin Education Programme

kids education programme new zealand

 

Learn about the Hector’s dolphin both on and off the water…….

Did you know that we can now provide a free Education Programme focused on Hector’s dolphin to all Kiwi schools and students thanks to all of our customers.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU……
 

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Every cruise or swim with the Hector’s dolphin helps go towards the education and research of Hector’s dolphins. And because of that we have funded and developed a nine week lesson plan aimed at curriculum level 3 students, that includes both a teachers guide and students handbook to help educate and inspire the next generation of young kiwi’s to care for their place, the ocean and it’s inhabitants.kids education programme new zealand
We will also send a Black Cat Cruises Skipper to all Christchurch and Banks Peninsula based schools to carry out a lesson in person should they wish. This will be at no charge to the school. 

akaroa dolphin cruise

In addition if any participating school wishes to add a personal wildlife encounter to the education programme we can offer a heavily discounted nature cruise in either Akaroa harbour or Lyttelton harbour.
What better way than to bring the classroom to life out on the water. 
 

The education programme is available nationwide so if you know of any teachers that may like to find out about this please share this blog post with them!

TIAKI PROMISE

tiaki promise Hector's dolphins

This embodies our Tiaki promise and company values to operate as a leading eco-tourism business that is both sustainable and future focused.

ENQUIRE / BOOK

If you’d like to enquire or make a booking on behalf of a school please email lyttelton@blackcat.co.nz

USEFUL LINKS

Find our more information on our website click here https://blackcat.co.nz/education/
Find out more about the wildlife in our local Akaroa and Lyttelton harbours here
hectors dolphinshectors dolphin cruisedolphins akaroa
#thankyou #education #nextgeneration #sustainabletourism #blackcatcruises #tiaki #tiakipromise #explorechc

How Many Hector’s are left? In Discussion With Professor Liz Slooten and Black Cat Cruises

Hi guys, we hope you are all keeping safe and well.

Over the last month here at Black Cat we’ve taken time to pause, take a deep breath and connect with family and friends either in our bubble or online. We’ve also been busy working on projects so that when the time is right we can safely return to cruising the waters in Akaroa and Lyttelton.

During this time we also reached out to a long standing friend of ours, marine mammal and Hector’s dolphin expert Professor Liz Slooten. We’ve worked alongside Professor Slooten since we first started operating back in 1985. She is a wealth of knowledge and true champion and advocate for New Zealand’s endemic and endangered dolphin.

Black Cat Cruises Skipper Julian Yates jumped online to have a good chat with Liz about life as a marine mammal scientist and her experiences in the field, along with many other important topics including the current estimate of the Hector’s dolphin population.

We can’t wait to get back out on the water with you all when it is safe to do so.

In the meantime stay safe, be kind and have a watch below…..

Full length Hector’s Dolphin Wildlife Discussion April 2020

We have also created a short edited version for those that may like to watch….

Celebrate Seaweek 2020

Celebrate Seaweek 2020 by cruising stunning Lyttelton Harbour with Black Cat Cruises and the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust! Each cruise will also host a very special expert guest from the trust, so you can you learn directly from the scientists studying Hector’s dolphins.

What is Seaweek?

Seaweek – Kaupapa Moana is New Zealand’s annual national week celebrating the sea which takes place from Saturday 29 February to Sunday 8 March 2020.

Seaweek Lyttelton Harbour Cruise

Step aboard our spacious catamaran, Canterbury Cat and search for the endangered Hector’s dolphin as you’re taken on a guided cruise around Lyttelton Harbour along with a special scientific guest from the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust.

The cruise will last for 1.5 hours and all profits will be donated to the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust.

DATES:

29 February 2020
7 March 2020
8 March 2020

TIME:

1:30PM – 3:00PM

TICKETS:

Adults: $30.00
Children (5-15 years): $20.00
Children under 5: FREE

Conservation Week 2019

Starting tomorrow is Department of Conservation – Conservation Week 2019! This year proudly celebrates 50 years of Conservation Week here in NZ – an amazing feat! The week runs from the 14th of September through to the 22nd of September 2019 in locations all over New Zealand.

Why do we need a Conservation Week?

New Zealand’s wildlife is still in crisis with more than 4,000 of our native animals (including the Hector’s dolphin) and plants threatened or at risk. Conservation Week is a chance to bring everyone together to do something, big or small to create change.

Every year Conservation Week sees thousands of New Zealanders getting involved through doing conservation activities at home or attending one of many events hosted across the country. Creating change can be big or small, when we pull together, we can make a big difference.

Black Cat and Conservation

Black Cat may be well known as a tourism operator, but did you know that we’re also a leader in environmental management?  From reducing energy consumption to donating a portion of every passenger fare to dolphin conservation, Black Cat takes extra measures to ensure the preservation of our environment. We have recently also been nominated for the Conservation Awards at the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards.

Hector’s Dolphin

New Zealand’s first eco-tourism operator

Established in 1985 as Akaroa Harbour Cruises, we can claim to be New Zealand’s first eco-tourism enterprise.  We launched with the intention of showing off Hector’s dolphins as well as the other creatures and scenery of Banks Peninsula.  Naturally, such a reliance on the natural environment encouraged Black Cat to foster a keen interest in maintaining the health and beauty of Akaroa Harbour right from the start.

Actions to protect the environment

Black Cat works hard to protect the environment.  First, we reduce our energy consumption (we aim for an annual reduction of 1% per person) through actions such as:

  • Maintaining our vessels for maximum efficiency
  • Encouraging our staff to walk or bike to work
  • Monitoring fuel usage
  • Using energy saving light bulbs and efficient heating

We also take care to minimise the by-products from the energy we do use.  By recycling and using biodegradable cleaning products, Black Cat is able to reduce the amount of waste resulting from our operation.

Education and advocacy

Black Cat takes pride in giving back to the environment and the community through advocacy, education and sponsorship.  Each year we donate at least $70,000 to programmes that support causes like marine mammal research and education, Quail Island restoration and penguin predator trapping.

In February 2019, we launched the Protect Hector’s campaign to increase public awareness of the threat to Hector’s dolphins and the vital need for their protection. The campaign focussed on encouraging individuals to get involved in the 2019 Threat Management Plan consultation.  We created a landing page within the Black Cat Cruises website where people can fill in their details and a postcard will be sent on their behalf to Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, calling for better protection for Hector’s. Physical postcards were also placed on all Black Cat’s boats in both Lyttelton and Akaroa.

We also have a strong commitment to marine environment education and the plight of the Hector’s dolphin in schools.  In 2017, Black Cat developed a new marine based educational resource for schools and the pilot programme launched Nov 2017. The programme included resource books for teachers and corresponding workbook for the students aimed at Year 3 and 4 students.  

What is Black Cat Cruises doing for Conservation Week?

To celebrate 50 years of Conservation Week, Black Cat Cruises is letting kids cruise for free from the 14th-22nd of September! (T’s and C’s apply).

Come along with your family and discover the natural wonders of Akaroa Habour aboard our award-winning 2-hour Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise.

This fun 2 hour cruise suitable for all ages is packed with stunning highlights including the endemic (only found in NZ) and playful Hector’s dolphin, as well as White-flippered Little Blue penguins, NZ Fur seals and abundant birdlife. You’ll see giant volcanic sea cliffs, view dramatic scenery and hear about Akaroa’s fascinating past. Cruises depart every day, weather permitting.

Akaroa Harbour Nature Kids

Conservation Week Special!

? Kids Cruise Free during Conservation Week (14–22 Sept)
? One child free per paying adult
? Direct bookings only via phone, email or online at the Black Cat website using promocode NATURE
? Kids will also receive a free Hector’s dolphin fun activity book to learn all about the endangered Hector’s dolphin!

TO BOOK:

Online: www.blackcat.co.nz using promo code NATURE
Phone: 0800 436 574
Email: akaroa@blackcat.co.nz

Please quote promo code: NATURE

Finalists in the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards

We are so excited to share that we are finalists in the 2019 New Zealand Tourism Awards – (Department of Conservation Conservation Award).

Finalist’s in the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards

An amazing honour to be alongside the other fantastic finalists in our category – Auckland Whale & Dolphin SafariAuckland Zoo,Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.

We are very proud of our incredible team and their commitment to protecting the Banks Peninsula marine environment and its inhabitants, especially the endangered Hector’s dolphin. 

This is a great honour that recognises not only the work put in to campaign for better protection of the Hector’s dolphins this year, but also the education and information we pass onto our customers each and every day.

Stay tuned for the results late October 2019! Yahhhooo.

Full press release CLICK HERE

Vote for Black Cat Cruises for the Peoples Choice Award!

As part of being a finalist, there is also a Peoples Choice Award up for grabs and this is YOUR chance to vote for your favourite NZ tourism experience.

We would love it if you chose us! Please click the link below and vote for Black Cat Cruises as your People’s Choice!

Plus, as a bonus for voting you’ll be in for a chance to WIN an Air New Zealand Mystery Break™ including:

✈️ Return airfares to a New Zealand mystery destination
? Two nights twin share accommodation
? Transfer to & from airport to destination

Voting closes 20 September!

Hector’s Dolphin Threat Management Plan – What You Need to Know

We’ve unlocked the mystery behind the recently released Threat Management Plan (from here in we’ll call it the TMP). It’s a very complex document which will bamboozle and confuse the average New Zealander. And even some of the best brains in this space took many hours to understand it!

The TMP outlines recommendations to the Ministers’ of Conservation and Fisheries for further protection of Hector’s and Māui dolphins. 


It’s a once in 20 year chance to make a positive impact on our precious native dolphins. Government is now calling for public submissions on the plan by 19th August 2019.

We’ve analysed the document from a Banks Peninsula perspective (sorry we did not look at proposed changes outside of Canterbury).

4 Things You Need to Know

  1. The TMP will allow up to 49 Hector’s dolphins to be caught in nets per year off the East Coast of the South Island of NZ. Apparently this is acceptable because we can let that many drown, and the population will recover to become thriving again! We don’t think that a plan that calls for one dead dolphin a week is acceptable.
  2. Option 3, the best scenario for the dolphins proposes protection north and south of Banks Peninsula but leaves a huge unprotected hole near Akaroa. We’ve called this the ‘death zone’. This will force fishermen currently operating in Pegasus Bay and Timaru to fish off Akaroa creating an even worse situation than today for the local dolphin population. 
  3. Given the above, it seems to ignore the vital economic value created by Hector’s dolphins off Akaroa. The total estimated economic value from set netting is $3.5M and trawl fishing is $8.7M per year in the South Island. (there is no information of how these numbers were derived). Eco-tourism drives $25M per year for Banks Peninsula alone. The proposed option 3 changes reduces fishing revenue by just $170,000 per year in Pegasus Bay and $870,000 in South Canterbury. A small amount compared to the tourism benefits. Further extension to close the ‘death zone’ will also have very minor economic impact.
  4. The TMP is silent on allowing flounder nets inside Akaroa and Lyttelton during the winter months. It’s therefore proposing for this to continue placing risks for the dolphins in the upper harbours. We know for sure dolphins have been caught in these nets recently. Here’s a press article discussing it. 

Where are the Dolphins?

The death zone has been justified in the TMP because sightings are seemingly lower off Akaroa. This is simply incorrect and goes against everything we know about the dolphins. 

There are many dolphin sightings in the death zone as mapped out below using data from many surveys since 2002. 

The TMP has tried to model the habitat of dolphins using a number of assumptions. One is related to public sightings; clearly there aren’t many recreational boats 10 miles off the Akaroa heads! The second is related to water clarity. They have assumed where the water is quite clear, there aren’t many dolphins. This is pretty bad science given the sighting data we have from Otago University. 

The Hector’s population around Banks Peninsula is the largest in NZ. The TMP says, therefore it’s OK for many to die in nets. A scenario that’s not acceptable and is completely at odds with our international brand position. 

The dolphins face many threats around our national coast lines. Some other sub populations may not survive meaning the Banks Peninsula population has to be strong and thriving. There is no room for set nets. The TMP calls for the BP population to recover to 80% of its carrying capacity (ie best case population) whereas the stakeholder working groups all agreed that 90-95% was more appropriate.

Toxo is a Red Herring

A brief note on Toxoplasmosis which features in the TMP. This is a disease probably contained in cat poo (yes) washing into rivers with the dolphins somehow ingesting enough to kill them. There have been some dead dolphins examined on beaches with toxoplasmosis being the most likely final cause of death. This may be an issue for the dolphins or may not. We simply don’t have enough reliable information. 

We know right now 100% that nets are killing dolphins and we have the chance to deal with it today. Toxo is forgive the pun a complete red herring. For this to be included as major threat (and greater than fishing) in the TMP is a significant issue and calls into question the whole integrity of the process.

When is a Sanctuary Not a Sanctuary?

The TMP proposes to expand the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary out to 20 miles and further up and down the coast, which at a quick read sounds like good news. However we need to be clear that the sanctuary only provides protection for non-fishing threats such as restrictions on seismic surveying and seabed mining. The TMP contradicts itself by calling for non-fishing protection out to 20 miles (ie accepting there are dolphins in this range to be protected), but then allowing fishing within the sanctuary by seemingly saying there are few dolphins in the range.

How Can You Help?

Please help the dolphins by emailing this address dolphintmp@doc.govt.nz. outlining your concerns about the situation above.

  1. A plan calling for one dead Hector’s dolphin a week is not acceptable. 
  2. The death zone off Banks Peninsula is not acceptable. We need net bans all around the peninsula where the dolphins range including in the area off Akaroa Heads.
  3. Expand the netting ban to include flounder nets in the upper harbours from April to Sept. 
  4. Support option 3 of the plan around Canterbury BUT with further extensions out to 100m in depth. 
  5. Support the TMP proposal for a larger marine mammal sanctuary to protect against mining and other non fishing threats in future. 

The best way to make an impact is by sending a personal email with your concerns to dolphintmp@doc.govt.nz or you can fill in one of the on-line surveys here or here or here

Submissions close Monday 19 August 2019.

At the end of the consultation period, DOC and Fisheries New Zealand will analyse your submissions and present them to the Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation for their decision. 

Swim for Hector’s

A team from Black Cat Cruises and the Department of Conservation recently swam across Akaroa Harbour from Tikao Bay to Akaroa Main Beach, to help raise awareness for the protection of the Hector’s dolphin. An amazing feat for an amazing cause!

Video captured by: Michael Roberts
The swim went from Tikao Bay accross to Akaroa Main Beach

The reason behind the swim

Swimming across Akaroa Harbour wasn’t an easy task, but the team had a very worthy reason as to why they wanted to complete this epic journey – the protection of the beloved Hector’s dolphin.

Hector’s dolphins are one of the world’s rarest dolphin species. It’s estimated there are somewhere between 8000 to 15000 Hectors left – fewer than 30% of their original population. And their close cousin, the North Island Maui dolphin has just 55 individuals.

Hector’s dolphins are one of the world’s rarest dolphin species

The greatest threat to the Hector’s is getting caught and drowned in set nets. As their name suggests, fishers drop the net to the ocean floor and come back later to pull it up. Unfortunately, the net is very difficult for a dolphin to detect and they drown if caught.

We’re seeking to ensure the Banks Peninsula Sanctuary is a safe place for dolphins. We want to see an an extension of the commercial set net ban out to 100m depth (around 20 miles). In addition an extension of the sanctuary up and down the South Island. 

Key Messages:

  • Ensure the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary is a safe place for dolphins.
  • Secure an extension of the commercial ban out to 100m depth (around 20 miles).
  • Secure an extension of the Marine Mammal Sanctuary up and down the South Island.

The Hector’s and Māui dolphins Threat Management Plan is coming up for review shortly and we have a small window of time to help. We are calling on our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to put much needed better protection in place for these endemic and endangered dolphins.

Send your postcard of support

Click the link and fill in your details and we will send a handwritten postcard on your behalf to the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Send a postcard to the Prime Minister

The Real Value of Hector’s

Putting the $ in Hector’$

Can you really put a dollar value on a species like Hector’s dolphins? Or should you?

Hector’s dolphin

Surely the conservation and sustainability of our only native dolphin is enough to drive the correct decisions by our government.

It turns out it’s a little more complex than that; the fishing industry has a powerful and well resourced voice that is very good at making itself heard. And they’ve come up with some very real arguments that are delaying further protection of Hector’s dolphins.

So at Black Cat Cruises, we decided to step it up see if we could provide some more information to balance the economic argument of fishing with the economic benefit derived through tourism activities. We did this for the hub of Hector’s activity which is Akaroa/Banks Peninsula because  it’s our home patch and an area we know best, but the results apply nationally.

What’s been done in the past?

There has been one attempt at putting a value on the species in 2014. An international NGO (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) commissioned a study of the preferences of New Zealanders via a survey. This was based on what is known as a ‘non-value’ use. Forgetting economic impact what would Kiwis be prepared to pay to keep the species around. How much do we care in $ terms?

This study determined values of between $355,000 and $440,000 per dolphin. This means that the estimated 130 dolphins killed every year in fishing nets represents an estimated $46 million NZD annual ‘welfare’ loss to the people of New Zealand.

Hector’s dolphins

There have been other studies globally which try and put a value on a single animal. For example in 2011, R. C. Anderson assessed the extent and economic value of manta ray watching in the Maldives. The study showed a manta ray might generate around US$100,000 in tourism dollars through a lifetime while only worth US$500 if caught and sold.

And elsewhere in NZ there have been numerous studies. Otago Peninsula has two rare marine species, the Royal Albatross and the Yellow-Eyed penguin, which attract tourists from around the world. Tisdell (2007) applied an Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) to establish the contribution of these two species to Dunedin’s regional economy.  The study found that the annual turnover of the tourism operators directly offering eco-tours was estimated to be of the order of $6.5 M and 70 full-time persons were employed in the industry. It was estimated that as a result of the eco-tourism associated with these species, approximately $100 million in GDP was generated in the Dunedin regional economy (directly or indirectly) and that 800-1000 full-time equivalent jobs were sustained.

What about Hector’s?

We appointed Market Economics to assess the economic impact of Hector’s dolphins at Banks Peninsula. You can download the 28 page report here. Importantly, we decided to measure the direct and indirect dollar impact from Hector’s dolphins tourism from international visitors only – rather than pushing it out further. This is quite a conservative approach, but accurate and dependable.

Akaroa Harbour

The report found Hector’s dolphin tourism is an important part of the Banks Peninsula economy and the wider Christchurch region.  The relatively high incidence of Hector’s means that eco-tours offer an almost guaranteed sighting on every trip. This high success is important in drawing many tourists to Akaroa, Christchurch, and to New Zealand.

In today’s terms, Hector’s eco-tourism, and the wider economic impact is estimated to range between $22M and $25M in value added which sustains the equivalent of between 473 to 530 jobs in the Canterbury economy.  The national value of Hector’s eco-tourism is estimated at between $28M and $31M in value added which sustains the equivalent of between 541 to 607 jobs in the national economy.

Black Cat Cruises at Akaroa Main Wharf

In addition, looking at regional disbursement which is very important to NZ and to Christchurch.

64% of people rated dolphins as either very important or important in their decision to visit Christchurch in the first place. This means that the dolphins were a key decision influencer on whether to come to Canterbury at all for around 48,000 people in 2018.

In addition 45% of people rated dolphins as either very important or important in their decision to visit NZ. Clearly the viewing of native wildlife in their natural habitat is important to our international visitors and specifically seeing dolphins was a key influencer in whether to come to NZ at all for around half of our visitors. At an average spend of $3,300 per person who visits NZ, the dolphins influenced around $111M in national spend. ($3300 x 75,000 people x 45%).

Taking this into account, and our marketing position of 100% Pure, it’s also fair to assume our potential visitors expect us to be actively protecting our native dolphins. How much damage is done to our brand with headlines like this? ‘Five Hector’s dolphins killed by commercial set net’ from an article in March 2018. Or this one ‘Three Hector’s dolphins killed in net off Canterbury coast’ from February 2019.

Not all about the numbers

Clearly the protection of a species like Hector’s dolphin is more important than dollars but it’s important to assess these numbers when looking at the economic impact on fisheries. The tourism industry has grown substantially in the 10 years since the Hector’s threat management plan was last assessed (and yes that also comes with its challenges).

We’re calling on the Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation to take the tourism economic impact of Hector’s into account when assessing further protection for our dolphins. If the above numbers balance off against those from fishing, then the argument becomes solely about conservation – and that’s an easy one to win!

How you can help!

The Hector’s and Māui dolphins Threat Management Plan is coming up for review and we have a small window of time to help. We are calling on our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to put much needed better protection in place for these endemic and endangered dolphins. We want to see protection for them out to 100 metres in depth to protect their habitat and the species from extinction.