A mother dolphin has been seen trying desperately to save her dead calf - pushing it up towards the surface in Coromandel waters.

About a dozen people on a passenger tour near Hahei Beach this morning spotted a pod of dolphins swimming nearby.

But some people on board soon saw there was something different about one of the mammals.

One of the people on board, Ash Lambert, told the Herald: "Something was a bit funny. Sometimes the dolphins there just play with fish - they throw pufferfish around and play with them.

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"So we figured that it might've been a fish. Then we got a bit closer and we could see this mama carrying her pēpi around on her nose.

"Stink, eh. It looked really young - almost like a stillborn [situation].''

Lambert, who has seen many dolphin pods in his time as a skipper, captured the incident via video footage on his cellphone.

The short clip shows the bottleneck dolphin carrying an almost white calf in her mouth, as she pushes it up towards the surface.

He said she remained with the pod - but at a somewhat distant.

"She was kind of more sort of alone, in the pod, because obviously she was carrying around her baby; so she couldn't really keep up with them all.''

Lambert said the pod was seen in the same area a woman found herself swimming with a pod of orca about two weeks ago.