This species was once hunted for bait, but this has now stopped. Due to the coastal habitat of Hector's dolphin, the species is vulnerable to a large number of different threats such as chemical pollution, vessel traffic and habitat modification.
Currently the main threat to the survival of this species is bycatch in net fisheries, particularly entanglements in gillnets that have been reported to occur throughout the species range.
Because Hector's dolphin exists in several discrete populations, this increases the risk of local extinctions from bycatch or a single pollution or disease episode.
There is a possibility that populations have declined to about a third to half of their size since 1970 because of gill net entanglement, with bycatch of this species occurring throughout its current range.
Human-made chemicals such as PCBs, DDTs and dioxins accumulate in Hector's dolphins which could potentially affect reproductive rates.
Habitat modification is another potential threat for the future. Although marine areas in New Zealand are relatively immune to degradation, coastal development such as the construction of ports and aquaculture are developing rapidly in some areas. Several deaths caused by ship strikes have been reported.
Recreational boat users interact with hector's dolphins throughout their range. Dolphin-watching tours are located at the center of the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary, and new operations are beginning in the Lyttleton and Timaru areas of Canterbury. Possible impacts of recreational boating and tourism on Hector's dolphins are currently under study.