Kaitiaki Davis Apiti has devoted the last 22 years of his life to protecting the Māui dolphin that is on the brink of extinction.
The critically endangered Māui dolphin, or Pōpoto, is a subspecies of the already endangered Hector's Dolphin. Their habitat is along the West Coast of the North Island, from Maunganui Bluff to Whanganui, and there are only 54 left.
"Now we're seeing the results of fishing and the destruction that it has caused through this taonga and how we're going to lose it and we really don't want that to happen. We really don't," says Apiti who lives in Aotea Harbour near Kāwhia, also part of the Māui dolphin habitat.
Fishing, diseases, oil and gas exploration, boat strike, mining, tourism and noise are all threats to Hector's and Māui dolphins. Davis is most concerned about commercial fishing and wants it banned from dolphins' habitat 20 nautical miles offshore along the West Coast, at a depth of 100m.
Apiti has been calling for the ban since 2008 when Ngāti Te Wehi lobbied the Crown over protecting the Māui dolphin habitat. Apiti says the decline in numbers is like "waiting for a tangihanga to happen".
In 2016 Apiti took a case to the Waitangi Tribunal for Ngāti Te Wehi, claiming the Government's policy on the protection of the Māui dolphin breached Te Tiriti o Waitangi. But the claim was rejected.
There was an upside to the claim. A new threat management plan was introduced, by the Department of Conservation and Fisheries New Zealand, banning commercial drift net and trawling within four miles of the shore, even though Ngāti Te Wehi wanted a 20 nautical mile limit.
But Apiti says the reduced limit is a political compromise with the fishing industry. "It's money. It boils down to money at the end of the day."
The plight of the Māui drew national and international attention. In 2020 DoC and Fisheries reviewed the TMP and pushed the protection zone out to 12 nautical miles but still not the 20 miles Ngāti Te Wehi and others were demanding.
Apiti wants a 20 nautical mile protection zone along the West Coast instead of the current 12.
Fisheries New Zealand's spokeswoman Emma Taylor said all of the measures in the latest 2020 TMP were supported by science.
"The scientific evidence does not support a 20 nautical mile ban for set netting. Under the current measures, which ban set netting out to 12 nautical miles in the main distribution area for Maui dolphins, the science tells us that any risk from fishing is almost completely removed."
If the protection zone were further extended to 20 nautical miles Kāwhia commercial fisherman Ali Brooks says it would cause a huge financial blow to his business.
At the review of the 2020 TMP, four iwi fisheries forums were consulted from the west coast of the North Island.
One of the iwi fisheries forums was Ngā hapū o Te Uru o Tainui representing the coastal hapū of Ngāti Maniapoto and Waikato.
Brooks is a part of Ngā Hapū o Te Uru o Tainui.
He said during the consultation of the TMP, all the fisheries forums agreed measures should be in place to help the dolphins but they had a priority to protect Māori fishers as well.
"A lot of that support was shaped around ensuring that the ministry supported us [fishers] if these measures come in and they impact our livelihoods."
If the protection zone was further extended to 20 nautical miles, Brooks says it would cause a huge financial blow to his business, which has already taken a hit. When the 12-mile limit was enforced, he had to shut down.
"It just became unable to sustain in the fishery. So we joined another whānau up here in Kāwhia Moana and we transitioned to trawling... If, for example, we were to be put out of the business now, by any further measures, it's a well over a million dollars of rendered useless assets."
Brooks is worried about biodiversity impacts. Since the 12 nautical mile ban, rig sharks are coming closer inshore and are eating more crayfish.
He says he would rather see a balanced fishery protecting all stocks.
Brooks is also more concerned about the number of Māori fishermen working along the west coast. He can count only several who are still in the line of work.
"If we are counting numbers of dolphins versus Māori fishermen, we are far more at risk of being extinct. Some people would say things like, 'Oh, but commercial, that's a Pākehā concept'. We've been fishing for our people in our villages for as long as we got here. The commercial term is something that was placed upon us. We are traditional Māori customary fishermen at heart."
But Apiti says it is not tikanga for Māori to want to fish in an area that should be protected for the survival of their taonga.
Academics, the government and companies are working together on a drone project in a bid to save the rare dolphin.
Brooks is one of many fishermen required to have cameras on their boats as a new protection measure for Māui dolphins. There are also drones designed to locate the dolphins. But University of Otago Department of Zoology Professor Liz Slooten says the cameras and drones are nowhere near enough.
"Cameras on boats don't do anything to stop dolphins dying in fishing nets. They just count the dead dolphins and drones are even less effective because they only see a very small part of the population of dolphins at any one time. So it's totally unrealistic to think that drones can protect dolphins.
"We really need to focus on stopping those avoidable dolphin deaths now and that's best done by removing fishing nets from their habitat."
In Aotea Harbour, Apiti says if the Māui dolphin does become extinct in his lifetime it would be "crushing"
"It's a battle only a certain few will fight and continue to fight. And 22 years, it's been a tough battle. It's been a very, very tough but we know that we are there till the end - we're there till the end."