Why do we support a marine mammal sanctuary in the Bay of Islands!
Last week the minister of conservation declared the Bay of Islands Marine mammal sanctuary and we broke out the bubbles!
We have been operating with a DOC (Department of Conservation) marine mammal permit for over 26 years, in the Bay of Islands and during this time we have watched the behaviours of dolphins change and the amount of boating and vessels increase in the Bay of Islands.
Our DOC permits are strictly enforced and over the years have changed significantly, now we can only watch/view dolphins for 20min with Bottlenose dolphin and only in the afternoons.
14 years ago, we noticed a marked decline in the number of dolphins that we saw, we also noted that we had a very high success rate of finding dolphins, but they were almost always the same dolphins and that over the years, our data showed an increase in other vessels around the dolphins. The dolphin behaviour had changed and we wanted to know why and how to protect the dolphins. So, we began an advocacy campaign to DOC, on making the Bottlenose dolphins in the Bay of Islands a DOC priority.
We soon realised that the current marine mammal protection rules and regulations were not fit for purpose and did not protect the Bay of Islands marine mammals. DOC marine mammal rangers were unable to stop those vessels that broke the marine mammal protection laws and the dolphin population, that visited the Bay of Islands continued to decline.
The concept of a marine mammal sanctuary for the Bay of Islands, began in our discussions with DOC about 10 years ago. After doing research on how a marine mammal sanctuary works, how they fit with activities around the Bay and results from overseas marine mammal protected areas. We were convinced that a marine mammal sanctuary in the Bay of Islands would help to conserve the local dolphins. If that meant we must change our daily operations for safe zones, and minimum distances, we were completely happy to do this, because the continued existence of a species is more important to us!
Yes, we are a DOC permitted marine mammal operator, which means we get to advertise dolphin and whale tours, get closer and spend some time with the dolphins and whales and are the only sailing yacht in the Bay of islands licensed to do this.
Having a DOC permit also means we have a big responsibility to be extra careful about the dolphins. As we are out on the water almost every day, our Doc permit allows us to see when marine mammal behaviour changes, when they are distress (boat strike) or when a female dolphin has a dead baby dolphin and needs time to grieve.
Our DOC permit allows us to show people the natural world and this is perhaps the single most important thing we can do for conservation. People protect what they love!
By sharing our passion for marine wildlife, we can help children, guests, crew and communities to understand the fragile nature of marine wildlife ecosystems and show how we can all make a real difference. Thanks to our education programs we can help educate the next generations about our wonderful yet fragile environments.
We are 100% compliant with all the current marine mammal rules and regulations. This sometime means having to actively avoid the dolphins on our day cruise. Again, we are very happy to do this and it easy to avoid a pod of dolphins.
The Bay of Islands marine mammal sanctuary is an important step to protecting the future and we feel that any form of protection is better than losing a species from the Bay of Islands. And if that means we (all boat users in the Bay of islands) must make small changes our behaviour to stop, go around or not swim with dolphins then that’s ok with us!
In the last five years, working together as a community with the seven local Hapu (subtribes) and a dedicated DOC ranger and scientific research to back up the decline of Bottlenose dolphins to the Bay of Islands. Has resulted in the Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) Marine Mammal Sanctuary, it truly has been a collaborative effort.
The future for the marine mammals in Te Pewhairangi is positive, they will have areas, that we know are important breeding and resting that have a 5knt max speed, boat numbers will decrease around the dolphins, allowing the dolphins to engage in critical behaviours for survival. It won’t happen overnight, but it is a huge step in the right direction for protecting our precious taonga (treasures).
It’s for future generations, why we fully support the Bay of Islands marine mammal sanctuary!