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Source: Greenpeace New Zealand

There’s nothing like visiting your favourite beach and spotting one of New Zealand’s very own treasured marine species. It’s always special to see our native sea creatures enjoying their habitat – and a poignant reminder of what we stand to lose if we don’t urgently protect our oceans. 

With that in mind, here are three of Aotearoa’s endangered marine species that are under threat – and how you can help protect them. 

Māui and Hector’s dolphins

Maui’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui). © Nigel Marple / Greenpeace

Māui dolphins are a subspecies of Hector’s dolphins – and they both need our help. But in the most pressing need of assistance is our Māui dolphin, which has been pushed to the brink of survival with only around 60 adult dolphins left. 

Tiny and playful animals, Māui used to be found frolicking along most of the west coast of the North Island. Historically, their habitat stretched even further afield. Now, if you are lucky, you might spot one between Maunganui Bluff and Whanganui. 

These small dolphins face numerous avoidable threats and the largest of these is fishing. With their habitat not properly protected, these dolphins can become entangled in nets and drown. 

Plastic pollution, boat strikes, and the effects of seabed exploration are other human-caused issues threatening the last of our Māui.

Simple measures that could be taken to protect these dolphins have been delayed time and time again by the government. But you can make a difference in this fight! If you haven’t already, please check out how you can take action to demand more protection for Māui dolphins.  With so few of these animals left, we must do everything in our power to save them. 

You can also watch this inspiring webinar from Liz Slooten – Māui and Hector’s dolphin expert.

Hoiho penguins

Hoiho penguins, also known as yellow-eyed penguins, are one of our most recognisable native species. You might have been lucky enough to see one of these birds with their distinctive band of pale yellow feathers. Sadly, there are only about 4000-5000 left.

Yellow-eyed penguins porpoise across Port Ross off main Auckland Island in the New Zealand subantarctic. Greenpeace has been documenting the extraordinary wildlife of the Auckland and Snare Islands, World Heritage areas, to show what is at risk if planned deep sea oil drilling goes ahead. © Greenpeace / Dave Hansford

Hoiho penguins can live for up to 20 years, but human disturbances are putting these birds at risk. 

Their survival is under threat from humans encroaching on their habitat and interrupting their nesting and moulting, the clearing of coastal forest and shrubland, and warming seas. Then there’s the pressure from commercial fishing operations: getting caught in nets, competing for food, and bottom trawling – an extremely destructive method of fishing that destroys everything in its path on the seafloor – obliterating important feeding grounds. 

To save at-risk species, the fishing industry needs proper regulation – fast. One way the fishing industry could help hoiho is by introducing cameras on boats across the full NZ fishing fleet. This would improve adherence to the rules and would make sure we have an accurate record of every bycatch event. Another crucial part of this is banning bottom trawling on biodiverse seamounts. If you haven’t already, please sign on to our call for a ban on bottom trawling on seamounts.

The New Zealand sea lion

A New Zealand sea lion pup at Sandy Bay, Enderby Island, in the New Zealand subantarctic. © Greenpeace / Dave Hansford

Did you know that New Zealand sea lions can weigh in at more than 400 kilograms? And yet these larger-than-life, roly-poly animals are the rarest species of sea lion in the world, with only around 12,000 left. 

One of the main threats to the survival of these blubbery creatures is – you guessed it – the fishing industry. It’s the same old story – these precious sea lions can get caught in nets and drowned, and they struggle to compete with large fishing boats for food. 

But all hope is not lost. There are ways you can help animals like the New Zealand sea lion. 

How you can help

Marine mammals everywhere need safe havens where they can recover and start to thrive, away from human activity.

One of the ways of making this happen is through a Global Ocean Treaty and a network of ocean sanctuaries spanning a third of the world’s oceans. This is one of the most ambitious conservation efforts ever – and it’s long overdue. 

If you haven’t already, please add your name to the millions of people around the world demanding urgent ocean protection. If you have already signed on, please share it with your friends and family. 

Destructive fishing, deep sea mining, plastic pollution and the impacts of the climate crisis are putting our oceans – and the wonderful creatures that call them home – in grave danger. The clock is ticking. But the good news is when people like you raise your voice and take action, truly epic things are made possible. Together, we can protect our native species and our incredible, life-giving oceans.