Fisheries Infosite

Hector's dolphin (HDO)
Maori name
Scientific name
Cephalorhynchus hectori hectori

Hector’s dolphins are endemic to New Zealand. The species is divided into two subspecies, one of which occurs principally in South Island waters (Hector’s dolphin), and the other in the waters of the north-west coast of the North Island (Maui’s dolphin).

Hector’s dolphin is considered to be one of the world’s rarest dolphin species. The Department of Conservation threat status of the South Island Hector’s dolphin is “nationally endangered” and Maui’s dolphin is “nationally critical”. The subspecies also appear on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List as endangered and critically endangered, respectively.

Hector’s dolphins are revered as a taonga by Maori. Tutumairekurai is the most common of the Maori names for Hector’s dolphin, meaning ocean dweller. Some Maori believed that the spirits of the dead would become tutumairekurai. Papakanua, tupoupou, hopuhopu and upokohue were names also used.

Three genetically distinct and geographically isolated populations of Hector’s dolphin have been identified on the South Island. These are found on the east coast of the South Island, the west coast of the South Island and the south coast of the South Island. The most recent abundance estimate for the South Island subspecies is 7,270 individuals.

DOC threat status: 2 Nationally endangered
IUCN listing: Endangered
Average maturity age: 8
Maximum age: 19
Adult survival average: 90
Litter: 1
Reproduction frequency
(per year):
Demographic data source: Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries (Info Brief) 2006
Population: 7400
Population source: Suisted & Neale 2004

4 items
Category Environmental impacts
Effects on other species
Hector's and Maui dolphins entanglements in set nets. details
Effects on other species
Hector's and Maui dolphins accidental capture (inshore trawling). details
Effects on ecosystem
Predator - prey unbalances within an ecosystem details
Effects on other species
Potting (Red rock lobster) occasional whale and dolphin entanglements details