May 26, 2016


From Mission Blue partner NABU International which has launched the Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin SOS campaign.

Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins are the smallest and rarest marine dolphins on Earth and live only in New Zealand. Maui’s dolphins have declined from an estimated 1,800 in the 1970s to less than 50 today as a result of fishing. The closely related Hector’s dolphin is also threatened, with several populations numbering fewer than 100 individuals. Maui’s dolphins have become so rare that the death of more than a single individual every ten to 23 years will result in extinction. Yet between three and four Maui’s dolphins die in fishing nets each year.

Hectors facing Extinction 9-14

The  NZ fishing industry, rather than a specific fishery, is the focus of the Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin SOS consumer campaign. Seafood New Zealand (SFNZ) is the country’s industry’s umbrella body and they have been aware of the impact of gillnet and trawl fisheries on Maui’s dolphins for 30 years. SFNZ has denied and even hidden the evidence and stood in the way of effective, science-based protection measures for decades. In 2008, they even took the government to court to overturn the nominal protection measures that are in place now. The Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin SOS consumer campaign directly challenges the NZ’s fishing industry through consumer power and businesses that use a large share of New Zealand seafood.

A leaked internal government report sets out that if evidence of the widespread dumping of large amounts of fish and dolphin by-catch were to become public, companies such as McDonalds are likely to stop buying fish from New Zealand. This is why we are urging McDonald, which uses 8% of hoki in its filet-o-fish, to stop putting New Zealand fish and hoki into their fish burgers. This campaign is our last chance to save Maui’s dolphins and to ensure that “sustainable NZ seafood” becomes a reality, not just an empty advertising slogan.

Just how much by-catch has New Zealand been under-reporting? See the shocking revelations below compiled by the University of British Columbia in their recently released Working Paper #2015 – 87.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 12.52.24 PM
Source: Simmons et al 2016 – NZ Catch Reconstruction

Consumer power truly is the dolphins’ last hope. McDonald’s filet-o-fish contains fish from New Zealand and so supports an industry that fights for the right to continue killing the dolphins. Please join us and freedive world champion William Trubridge in calling on McDonald’s to drop New Zealand fish from its menu and make a pledge not to buy McDonald’s fillet-o-fish or any other fish from New Zealand until the dolphins are properly protected. This is a huge opportunity for McDonald’s to do the right thing. Join the petition here.

DOC picture - OK to use. Hector's dolphin  photographed South of Granity  on West Coast  7 June 2001  Martin Abel (4)
Photo Credit: Martin Abel

“New Zealand is in danger of becoming the first country to allow the extinction of a marine dolphin due to human activity,” explains NABU International Chief Executive Thomas Tennhardt. “The industry’s role in the dolphins’ demise is already impacting New Zealand’s international standing and brand—an untenable situation for a country that portrays itself as an environmentally responsible nation and tourist destination. While the government and the industry are in denial, our appeal to McDonald’s and consumers around the world is a last chance SOS to call to avoid the dolphins’ demise at the eleventh hour,” adds Tennhardt.


In a development on May 26th, 2016, McDonalds corporate office in the United States responded with the following statement:

We understand the importance of protecting marine wildlife, especially endangered species that share the ocean with the fish we use on our menu around the world. That’s why we’re proud of our global commitment to only source fish from sustainably certified fisheries, which are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) globally, and therefore, in New Zealand.

All MSC certified fisheries meet their high standard for sustainable fishing, which is grounded in scientific data and research and is widely recognized as the world’s most credible and robust assessment of the sustainability of wild fisheries. We share the same interest in ensuring the health and vitality of the world’s oceans, that is why we will continue to work with the world’s leading experts in the area of oceanic sustainability to ensure that all marine wildlife are protected.

Are these sustainable certifications meaningful in the face of two dolphin populations about to go extinct? Decide for yourself. What is clear is that business as usual will most certainly lead to the extinction of these two marine dolphin species. Not in decades from now. But in years if not months.


NABU International’s calls for an urgent ban of harmful fishing methods across the dolphins’ habitat correspond to recommendations by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Society for Marine Mammalogy. Affected fishermen should be helped to transition to selective, sustainable and dolphin-friendly fishing methods or to alternative livelihoods. The group is calling on McDonald’s to drop New Zealand fish from its menu and for consumers to make a pledge not to buy McDonald’s fillet-o-fish or any other fish from New Zealand until the dolphins are fully protected. You can sign the petition here.

Get the latest on the fight to save the Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins at NABU’s Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin SOS campaign webpage. Also, stay tuned for an upcoming Mission Blue blog that will detail the precipitous decline of another marine dolphin, Mexico’s vaquita porpoise, which lives in the Gulf of California Hope Spot and whose population levels are below 100.


17 thoughts on “Our Final Chance to Keep Maui’s and Hector’s Dolphins From Imminent Extinction

  1. I would love it if we could just live a normal life with the sea animal’s
    But we can’t do that if they endangered animals all around us all the time know matter what we do how we do it they are endangered animals around us.

  2. We need a calculated campaign to send the message to and to make it very clear to Mcdonalds that we will not tolerate them using Hoki taken from the area where the dolphins habitat and that is around the Cook Strait of NZ.

    1. Yes that is right and I think it is not right for them to take the fish and have them became endangered animals. I hope that we can change the world and the endangered animals

  3. So, if I understand the sponsored link in Google Earth – posted in a non-conspicuous part of the ocean of interest to me – only the very few (read: ‘wealthy’) should be allowed to live within 150 km of the coast, because only ‘they’ understand how sensitive the marine environment is, and how important it is to limit the amount of ‘blue carbon’ that’s released into the atmosphere.

    I have to say, I’m really honored and proud to be a member of the same race as such ‘noble’ beings who are clearly concerned for the planet.

    May I show my appreciation by coming over to your winter home on the ocean in Palm Beach, and washing/waxing your Rolls Royce, your majesty?

    Sarcasm, you say? Maybe you’d prefer your repudiation straight.

    Here in the States have some of the strictest environment regulations on the planet. For you to lump us in with the Chinese who are slowly filling in the South China Sea, and choking the air with more carbon than you can sequester in 1,000 years is an insult.

    Tell the Phillipinos to quit carpet bombing the ocean floor for the few little fish that are in their territorial waters.

    Tell the Indians and Pakistanis that they’re never going to have a Buick parked outside every mud hut in their country, and that they should work on delivering clean water, food and electricity to their citizens before developing an auto industry. (Also tell them, “No, they are NOT ‘better than Americans'”.)

    Tell the oily bastards in Iran AND Saudi Arabia to clean up the spills every damn time they empty the bilges in their big tankers, and to do it in THEIR waters, if they don’t mind too terribly much.

    And you – you bunch of international, elitist snobs – get a clue; people have to eat. You don’t launch your fishing boat from 150 km or even that many METERS inland from the shore. You keep a fishing boat in the water, and you go out every day and get the fish, BECAUSE PEOPLE NEED TO EAT.

    You want to protect the mangroves? Then cough up some of that tax money you spend on social programs to buy up habitat, instead of building condos right up against the Mediterranian.

    People like you just LOVE to poo poo the American way; because you’re too proud, stubborn or stupid to see that you – and it’s mostly you – and your lavish lifestyle that’s really the problem.

    Think about that while you’re consuming 15 gallons of diesel every half-hour, cruising the world in the ‘superyacht’ you had custom made, dining on grain-fed Iowa beef and scuba diving in your favorite spots along the coast that aren’t as pretty as they used to be BECAUSE YOU’VE PUSHED PEOPLE TO DESPERATE MEASURES IN ORDER TO SURVIVE.

    If the planet’s hurting, it’s because of you; and not because a few million poor Americans live within 8 miles of the nearest estuary.

    1. I hear your passion, keep up the good work but do try to find time to relax n chill. I probably sound like this a lot, I feel your pain. Keep up the great work. One of the many great things about America is #Cowspiracy , what an incredible young man… Namaste` for we are one. Kindest Regards from New Zealand, not many of us rich down here either…

  4. As the Statement By Macdonalds says they Use the Best Practice Sustainable Fishing methods (and Support NZ Fishermen instead of Slave Labour used by some International fishing Companies..Who “Pay” for approved Dolphin Safe Fish permits .the Certificate Providers getting Huge Fees to provide the Service of Providing Permits …) Now i am not a fan of the Golden Arches but Fillet of Fish was the only thing apart from fries ..that i could eat at McD’S but they did have Vege Wraps that i switched to but i don’t go to them for years so not sure if they still have them. But i heard that TWO Hectors Dolphins were Caught which is bad but i wonder how many Hectors and Maui Dolphins are Eaten by Orca or Sharks. When Giving birth Dolphins ,Pilot Whales etc are Vulnerable to predators who pick up on the Blood,and after birth in the water,Every Year at the same time Pilot whales are forced to strand when hunted by Orca ,Great White Sharks etc many of the calves are caught or eaten by orca etc but the panicked ones beach themselves as they try to keep young ones safe ( i have seen it happen with a pod of common dolphins on Waiheke only One Baby Dolphin Survived in the stranded Pod we saved.) the Orca pod were further out in the bay so the Dolphins remained close to the shallow water untill the Orca Moved away..On the Baby Dolphin i saw a semi circle of round teeth marks which was possibly of a Baby Orca being trained to hunt .with the Adults .

  5. Thank you for supporting & promoting NABU’s work to protect Maui’s dolphins. Brilliant

  6. When the risk of them dying is so huge, and their small numbers makes finding each other for breeding (and not inbreeding) harder, they should all be rounded up and put in large sea pens in their natural habitat, away from boat noise and possible pollution, and be bred to get their numbers up. With minimal human contact so a release back will be easier.

    I’ve seen people suggesting to put the vaquita porpoise in parks like SeaWorld, but I doubt it would help as porpoises seem to be very difficult to get to thrive in human care, so the risk of them dying after capture is too great. But dolphins are a different thing, and putting them somewhere in their natural habitat to make the transition as small as possible (plus like I said, no building relationships with people or guests viewing them) could work.

  7. As a vegetarian I never go to mcdonalds. I feel this is a money making company designed to feed people cheaply but not in a healthy way. They say family aware and caring. NOW IS THE TIME TO SHOW IT. address this issue stand up be a leader and take fish of the menue or buy from another source. stand with us become pure and green. be the voice for the maui and hectors dolphins and state why BE A LEADER NOT A FOLLOWER MCDONALDS. It is totally unacceptable money greed and life is what this is about the dolphins are almost extinct. SHOW US YOU CARE. WE CHALLANGE YOU MCDONALDS

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