• Delphinidae;
  • Hector's dolphin;
  • Cephalorhynchus hectori;
  • mortality;
  • survival;
  • gillnet entanglement;
  • photographic identification


Re-sightings of photographically identified individuals were used to estimate survival rates for a free-living population of Hector's dolphins Cephalorhynchus hectori, a species endemic to New Zealand waters. Most individuals were identified from injuries to the dorsal fin. Consequently, the photographic catalog contained very few young individuals. Our analysis included no newborn calves or yearlings, and provided estimates of survival rates only after the first year of life. We used two complementary methods for calculating survival rates: a modified Jolly-Seber model, and a simpler method which corrects in a more explicit way for individual dolphins being alive but not sighted. Selection of the most reliable subset of the data had a greater effect on computed survival rates than did the difference between the two methods. We conclude that careful inspection of resighting data before analysis, and, if necessary, selection of a subset, is very important in studies of this kind. Survival rate estimates came from a population which was subject to relatively heavy mortality from gillnet entanglement. Standard errors of the survival rate estimates have been used to assess the conditional probability of population decline given three fertility scenarios. The high probability that the Banks Peninsula Hector's dolphin population was decreasing during the study period (0.78 to 0.99) suggests that gillnet entanglement constituted a serious risk to this population.