11 November 2019
Acoustic devices confirm Hector’s and Māui dolphins are present in Taranaki region
New research using acoustic underwater monitoring devices has confirmed that Hector’s or Māui dolphins are often present
in the Taranaki region.
The Department of Conservation, (DOC) worked with the University of Auckland to deploy and analyse acoustic devices
placed at various points along the coast of Taranaki and Whanganui between November 2016 and April 2019.
DOC’s Manager Marine Species and Threats Ian Angus says the devices, known as C-PODs, detect click trains in the high
frequency that Māui and Hector’s dolphins emit when foraging.
“The results give us further evidence that Hector’s or Māui dolphins are regularly present in the coastal waters of
Tongaporutu, Taranaki, and visit as far south as Tapuae.
Despite numerous aerial and boat surveys by DOC and university researchers in this area over several years, visual
sightings of Hector’s or Māui dolphins are rare. The most recent verified sighting was off the coast of Patea, just
north of the Whanganui River.
“This research confirms that the dolphins are there, even if we don’t always see them,” says Ian Angus. “They are very
elusive and not easy to see above water, so acoustic devices under the sea are a valuable alternative way of detecting
The difference in vocalisation allows scientists to reliably distinguish them from other species of dolphin, however,
Hector’s and Māui dolphins are the same species and it is not yet possible to distinguish between the subspecies through
In Taranaki the devices were deployed inside the existing area where protection measures are in place. The next step
will be to locate the devices outside this area to verify how far the dolphins range.
Earlier research using the C-PODs shows that Māui and Hector’s dolphins range as far out as 18.2 km (9.8 nm) offshore
from Hamilton’s Gap (south heads, Manukau Harbour).
The Minister of Conservation and Minister of Fisheries are currently determining whether further management options are
needed as part of the review of the Hector’s and Māui dolphin Threat Management Plan.