Executive Summary

Goals, Objectives and Methods


The Māui dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori Māui), a small coastal dolphin that is endemic to New Zealand, has been classified as critically endangered with an estimated 55 individuals left (Baker et al., 2013; Currey, Boren, Sharp, & Peterson, 2012). Their population is endangered due to numerous threats, as well as their slow population growth rate of 1.8% (Currey et al., 2012). The largest threats to the Māui dolphin are fishing related threats such as set net and trawl fishing, which will account for 95.5% of all Māui dolphin deaths by the year 2017 if all threats remain at current levels (Currey et al., 2012). If nothing is done to address these threats, it is predicted the Māui dolphin will go extinct by the year 2031 (NABU International:Foundation for Nature, 2013).

The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) is currently responsible for developing and administering a Threat Management Plan in order to mitigate human induced threats to the Māui dolphin (Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai, n.d.-b). Part of this plan includes bans on net fishing in the Māui dolphin’s habitat. In order to determine the extent of the Māui dolphin habitat, DOC heavily relies on the public to report sightings (Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai, n.d.-b). There is contention over this Threat Management Plan since conservationists and non-government organizations argue that the plan does not do enough to protect the dolphin, while industries, such as the fishing industry, argue that the plan is adequate or excessive.

DOC aims to raise public awareness of the critically endangered state of the Māui dolphin in order to gain individual and community support for Māui dolphin conservation. An important part of this plan is to raise awareness in children through conservation education (Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai, n.d.-b). Mātauranga Māori, the indigenous learning system of the native Māori, is also an important concept to consider when raising public awareness of the Māui dolphin (Barriball, 2014).
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Goals, Objectives and Methods

The ultimate goal of this project is to involve the general public with Māui dolphin conservation efforts by identifying ways that individuals and communities can help, while also targeting schoolchildren by incorporating the principles of mātauranga Māori and conservation education. We accomplished this goal by conducting nine interviews with key individuals involved in Māui dolphin conservation to gain their current perspectives on conservation efforts. We also interviewed seven teachers to gain perspective on teaching conservation education to schoolchildren and the concept of mātauranga Māori as well as four surfers to find ways on how surfers can be involved in Māui dolphin conservation efforts.

In order to achieve our project goal, the team developed the following three objectives:

Objective 1: Understand the perspectives of Māui dolphin conservation stakeholders, such as activists and fishermen, regarding current conservation efforts.

The team asked the key individuals several questions that focused on what they saw as the largest threats to the Māui dolphin, the largest obstacle to its conservation and what the dolphin meant to them and their culture. These questions aimed to understand the varying perspectives these individuals held on Māui dolphin conservation and relay this information back to DOC.

Objective 2: Identify practical steps community members and DOC can take to encourage positive action towards Māui dolphin conservation.

The second objective aimed to find additional ways to help the Māui dolphin population, aside from government policy change. In order to achieve this, the team asked the key individuals what they believed both DOC and the general public could do to help the Māui dolphin. The team also interviewed surfers to find ways to encourage the surfing community to report sightings and submit pictures and videos of the Māui dolphin to DOC.

Objective 3: To acquire insight into mātauranga Māori and conservation education from Raglan educators and community activists for the purpose of developing outreach materials that encourage more widespread engagement with Māui dolphin conservation initiatives.

The team sought to gain a better understanding of mātauranga Māori from both activists of Māori descent and teachers so that it may be incorporated into awareness materials for the Māui dolphin. The team also worked with schoolteachers to find effective methods of conservation education in order to educate children about the Māui dolphin.
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  1. Fishermen no longer see fishing as the biggest threat to the Māui dolphin population because they have not seen the Māui dolphins beyond the set net ban areas.
  2. Most activists still see fishing as the biggest threat to the Māui dolphin and believe the current fishing restrictions are not adequately protective and that further set net bans are needed.
  3. Government inaction is seen as an obstacle preventing further protection measures due to the perceived lack of economic value of the Māui dolphin.
  4. Stakeholders identified several actions individuals and communities could take to protect the Māui dolphin, including looking after their land, reporting Māui dolphin sightings to DOC, videotaping the Māui dolphin, joining effective and impactful organizations that contribute to Māui dolphin conservation, and taking action against the government.
  5. Positive awareness material is an effective method of promoting Māui dolphin conservation, as it will interest more people as opposed to a grim message about the Māui dolphin’s critically endangered state.
  6. New Zealanders along the west coast have a cultural connection to the dolphin because of first-hand, personal experiences with the dolphin and awareness campaigns that have greatly contributed to this connection.
  7. Local Māori, along the west coast of the North Island, have a strong cultural and spiritual connection to the dolphin that is embedded within their learning system, mātauranga Māori, due to iwi ancestry and environmental stewardship.
  8. Mātauranga Māori has many similarities to Western science and is just as powerful to help educate children about conservation and the importance of saving the Māui dolphin.
  9. The most effective method to connect and resonate with children about conservation education is a practical, hands-on approach.
  10. Teachers believe that DOC only needs to supply supplementary materials about the conservation of the Māui dolphin, opposed to entire lesson plan, because the teachers want to integrate conservation into their normal curriculum.
  11. The main motivation for including conservation education in the classroom is teacher interest due to the fact that enviroschools have a flexible curriculum and therefore can choose what materials they would like to teach.

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Our background research, findings and personal experiences helped the team to shape our recommendations to DOC. We strongly recommend that:

  1. DOC liaises more with fishermen on the West Coast of the North Island, both recreational and commercial, so that they may be further involved in Māui dolphin conservation.
  2. DOC further liaises with local Māori along the Māui dolphin’s range regarding Māui dolphin conservation efforts, so that Māori may express their concerns and recommendations to DOC.
  3. DOC provides public awareness material about the scientific evidence of the specific threats to the Māui dolphin population, both human-induced and non-human- induced.
  4. DOC distributes updates via email, mail and/or its website on the status of the conservation efforts of the Māui dolphin to all interested individuals and organizations.
  5. DOC and other NGOs distribute awareness material that contains a positive message about the Māui dolphin.
  6. DOC shares the team’s educational video, entitled Māui Dolphin: Treasure of the Sea, they created on their website, at Māui Dolphin Day and other events for Māui dolphin conservation.
  7. DOC continues to increase signage on beaches and docks informing the public on how to report sightings of the Māui dolphin along the West Coast.
  8. The Raglan community creates signs informing the public about the importance of the Māui dolphin to this area and that DOC supports this initiative if necessary.
  9. The public take and share videos and photos of Māui dolphins and for DOC to encourage this initiative by creating an area on their website where people can upload this footage.
  10. The public take actions to help the Māui dolphin and that DOC promotes these actions through media, posters, and children’s programs.
  11. DOC works to interest teachers in teaching about Māui dolphin conservation by distributing relevant supplementary lesson material to teach to their children about the Māui dolphin.
  12. Teachers involve a hands-on, practical approach to lessons about the Māui dolphin by interacting with their local environment.
  13. DOC publishes and distributes the children’s book about the Māui dolphin, entitled Meet the Māui Dolphin, created by the team.

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Our project sought to find ways individuals and communities can help the Māui dolphin, as well as increase awareness within the general public and target schoolchildren with the use of mātauranga Māori. With the help of DOC staff and people from Raglan, we created a children’s book that highlights the importance of the Māui dolphin and how public awareness and action can aid in this species’ revival. We also created an educational video that incorporates the views of the Raglan community on the Māui dolphin. The team hopes that their work will promote action to protect and save the critically endangered Māui dolphin.
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