New Zealanders want Maui's and Hector's dolphins protected, and are prepared to pay for it, according to a new report.

The report was commissioned by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the world's largest international cetacean conservation organisation, who say Maui's and Hector's dolphins are unique to New Zealand, with very slow breeding rates.

Numbers were in rapid decline, due to destructive fishing methods such as set netting and trawling, the report stated.

WDC researcher Gemma McGrath said the unscientific survey showed 80 per cent of the 1000 respondents wanted greater protection put in place to safeguarded the dolphins.


The conservation group, along with other non government organisations and scientists agreed the best way to protect dolphins was safer fishing methods throughout the dolphins' range, Ms McGrath said.

"The really important finding from this study is that Kiwis are very prepared to pay extra for fish to allow non-destructive methods to be used.

"There are other ways to fish, and these wiser ways would add outstanding value to our economy, tourism industry and recreational fishing. We could stand on the beach and see our oceans teeming with life again, every day."

Maui's dolphins were now down to fewer than 50 individuals and would be extinct in 15 years if governments failed to take action, she said.

Less than 10 per cent of Maui's and Hector's habitat was protected from destructive fishing methods, Ms McGrath said