Hector’s Dolphins are an endangered species, and they need all the help they can get. Scientists estimate that there were between 21,000 and 29,000 Hector’s Dolphins in the 1970s. But due to the detrimental effects of trawling, net fishing and a changing habitat being invaded by people, the population has dwindled. Today, the numbers sit at an estimated 7270 – less than one third of the 1970s population.
Many of these dolphins can be found in the beautiful Akaroa Harbour.
But there is hope for our native dolphin. Here are five ways you can get involved in helping conserve these beautiful creatures.
Be Dolphin Friendly
First off, it’s best to make sure you’re doing everything you can if you’re out in the water or even just someone who likes a bit of seafood. If that sounds like you, there are several ways to ensure what you love doing doesn’t have bad effects for our Hector’s Dolphins:
- Avoid using set nets, especially when you see dolphins close by. You should also use a ‘no wake’ speed limit if you’re within 300 metres of dolphins.
- Don’t swim with, feed, or touch the dolphins unless you’re with a tourist operation. The only permitted Hector’s dolphin swimming operation in the world is from Akaroa (with Black Cat Cruises)
- Keep their habitat clean by taking any rubbish with you, and if you see any floating in the water, it’d be great if you pick it up too
- Be aware of your surroundings and make sure that others out on the water are able to see if there are dolphins around too
- When having a meal with seafood, make sure that what you’re eating was caught without using trawling or a gillnet
- And when going fishing yourself, dolphin-safe methods such as using a hook and line, fishing rod or craypot, are the way to go
The key to conservation is education. There are great programmes around the country that go to primary schools and make sure that the children in the area are informed about the struggle of Hector’s Dolphins. But school isn’t the only way to get involved here – get informed by doing a little research. Here on this blog is a great place to start, or on sites from organisations like the Department of Conservation and WWF. Knowledge is power, and if you can spread the word to others about what we can do to save the dolphins, then we’re more likely to be able to help them out.
Donate to the cause
Donate a little time, or if you have it, a little money to the plight of these dolphins. Take a few minutes to look up campaigns and organisations, see how you can volunteer, or even just how you can get their message out there, and you will have helped just by publicising the great work that goes into saving these creatures. Or if you have a bit of spare cash, look out for things like WWF’s Stop Their Extinction campaign, or the 100m Campaign. To get a feel for these sorts of things, go to stoptheirextinction.org.nz and you’ll see a number of ways you can do something for this endangered species. Campaigns like these are concerned with bringing about awareness of the plight of Hector’s and often, the also highly endangered Maui dolphins. You can donate money to the cause, send the message to your friends, or even adopt a dolphin!
A great way to incite action is to make your voice heard by those who need to hear it. Getting in contact with the Department of Conservation, your local body government, or charities running campaigns for the dolphins is a great way to encourage a dialogue about what’s happening to our marine mammals. Writing a letter, or getting on board with a public proposal to the Minister of Fisheries or Minister of Conservation is really useful for bringing up the issue of protecting dolphin habitat with those who have the authority to legislate change. Or, if you need a hand to start, go to the 100m Campaign (www.whaledolphintrust.org.nz/ campaigns-100m.php) and you’ll find a link to an MP’s email address, giving you the tools to let your voice be heard on the issue of fishing nets in New Zealand waters.
Get Social Media Savvy
With the glorious wonder that is the internet, and of course a little know how, there is no end to what you can do to bring about awareness of the fact that Hector’s Dolphins need our help. Join the social media pages of organisations like Black Cat Cruises in Akaroa and Lyttelton, WWF, or the Whale and Dolphin Trust and not only can you stay informed about the latest developments, activities, and campaign events, but you can share this information with your friends too. There are also other exciting ways to get involved online, like with hectorsdolphins.com and their ‘Let’s Face It’ campaign for the last 55 Maui dolphins, where people upload photographs of themselves for a visual petition. With following these campaigns, it’s easy to get inspired to create your own buzz – make a poster, start a blog, or post on a page to get the word out there and raise awareness of the plight of Hector’s Dolphins yourself!
Getting involved is the first step to getting Hector’s Dolphins the help they need. Look out for next week’s blog post about those who have already made a dent in the fight for a safe and well New Zealand Dolphin population.