Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
Risso's dolphins are captured in Taiji hunt. Image: LIA and Dolphin Project

Heartbreak and practical action – the horror of the Taiji dolphin hunts and one Japanese activist’s determination

Back in November, I shared my heartache at the drama unfolding in the waters off...
Common Dolphin

Goodbye Bycatch – what have we achieved and what’s next?

Thank you to everyone who's got involved with our campaign to stop dolphins, porpoises and...
Haul of sea bass on French pair trawlers, Le Baron and Magellan, fishing in the English channel. Greenpeace is currently in the English channel protesting against pelagic pair trawling due to the high numbers of dolphin deaths associated with it.

Seaspiracy

Ali and Lucy Tabrizi's Netflix film Seaspiracy is compelling viewing for anyone who cares for...
Porpoise, Conwy Wales. WDC

Why do porpoises and dolphins find it so difficult to avoid fishing nets?

When a dolphin or porpoise is caught or entangled in fishing gear it's known as...
WDC NA

Reflection – what this remarkable whale teaches us about humpbacks and their fascinating lives

Reflection, like all humpback whales, was born with a unique black and white pattern on...

Meet the brainiacs of the underwater world – deep thinkers with intricate emotional lives

Whales and dolphins have big brains, and large brained beings have a few things in...

Growing up with the amazing Adelaide Port River dolphins

Squeak, one of the Port River dolphins If you are able to make a donation,...

Real lives lost – the true dolphin, porpoise and whale stories behind the bycatch statistics

Every dolphin, porpoise and whale who dies in fishing gear was an individual with their...

Philip Hoare reflects on New Zealand dolphins

Acclaimed writer, broadcaster and WDC ambassador, Philip Hoare has recently returned from a trip to New Zealand where he was fortunate enough to come across both sperm whales and endangered Hector’s dolphins. Collectively known as New Zealand dolphins, Hector’s and Māui dolphins are dying in fishing nets at a catastrophic rate. Unless we take action, they are heading for certain extinction.

 In this excerpt from his travel diary, Philip reflects on his encounters with New Zealand dolphins.

 New Zealand is an old-new country bordered by rubble, everywhere, its shores scattered with rocks and boulders as if the builders had only just left.  It was discovered, in the act of rising up out of the sea, by a Dutchman, Abel Tasman, on 13 December 1642, ‘a great land uplifted high’.  Since I last came here it has been lifted up even higher, the result of an earthquake and its even more violent aftershock that shook the land from the sea.  Hundreds of people lost their lives in those ten seconds and what happened afterwards as the soil itself turned liquid, an underground sea.

Two years ago, the land lurched again, and along the coast of this Polynesian island the road to Kaikoura collapsed. It has yet to be properly repaired, so great was the power that undermined it. Here the black rocks rise out of the sea, out of the deep canyon beyond, so deep it could swallow up Christchurch cathedral.  I watch a sperm whale dive into it, raising his huge tail, perpendicularly against the sky, as if in frothed defiance, before plunging below.  It is hard to resist the notion that I might be taken down, too. 

 I’m out at sea with the Kaikoura Whale Watch, run by Maori people who believe the whales to be their ancestors, in a similar way they believe the whales to be the same as the kauri trees, both grey and wrinkly.  I watch from the upper deck of the boat as a sperm whale surfaces off the bow, the big-headed blower leaving me, raising his tail emblematically against the deepest water I will ever know and the tallest mountains I will ever see, sewing the two together in the form and function of his flukes.  It all seems so perfect, this union. 

 Further south, where the turquoise water feels the chill of the Antarctic, the colour of interior ice, we sail out for an even more extraordinary encounter.  Only a few minutes out of Akaroa Harbour, we are surrounded by a pod of Hector’s dolphins, the smallest marine mammals of their kind.  They are my size.  Like the guardian whales, I’ve met them before.  They rush up like old friends with long memories.  It is almost impossible to believe how beautiful they are, with their grey, black and white markings, like fine porcelain, complete with rounded dorsal fins that look like the handles on a tea cup.  They occupy these turbid coastal waters because they feel safe from predators here.


I wonder how they coped with the earthquake and its seismic shocks.  But there are other dangers that they face.  As we leave the pod, close by, fur seals slither in rock pools under volcanic strata, stained with algal growth like a painting.  A body drifts across our bows – a seal whose head has been neatly excised at the neck, bitten clean off.   It is a violent image.  We cannot account for the animal’s decapitation.  Fur seals, like the Hector’s dolphins, are passive and sometimes active victims of the fishing industry here.  It is hard to imagine how this beautiful land, and its beautiful animals and people, can bear witness to such threats.  For all its vast natural beauty, this country, and the sea around it, bears witness to the fragility of our world.  Down here, in the biggest ocean that envelopes almost half of our planet, a tiny marine mammal is fighting to survive.  Like the huge sperm whales of Kaikoura, the fate of the diminutive Hector’s dolphins is in our hands.

 As Philip reflects, we share a collective responsibility for the future of these little dolphins and the good news is we can save them. If the New Zealand government keeps its election promise to ban destructive fishing methods from the areas where the dolphins live, they will begin to recover. It’s rare in conservation that the solution to a problem is so clear and this simple. It’s a no-brainer – ban set nets and trawls from the dolphins home and prevent their extinction.

 Play your part – sign our petition now.

The views and opinions expressed by our guest bloggers are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of WDC.    

Julia Pix

About Julia Pix

Communications manager - Public Engagement