Apply for a permit if you want to undertake commercial activities involving marine mammals, or you want to take, hold, import or export marine mammals.

Delays in processing

We currently have a backlog of applications. We're working hard to prioritise older and urgent applications. If you have any concerns contact

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Pre-application meeting

Applying for a permit for the first time can be complicated. To ensure your application goes smoothly we offer a free pre-application meeting. We’ll also help you contact the local iwi to assess whether your proposed activity will have any cultural effects.

Applications for commercial viewing or filming of marine mammals

Do I need a marine mammal viewing permit?

The Marine Mammals Protection Regulations provides for the protection, conservation, and management of marine mammals. Anyone wanting to undertake commercial activities involving marine mammals must have a permit from DOC.

A commercial operation is:

  • an operation carried on for any form of hire or reward
  • in which persons are transported, conveyed, conducted, or guided
  • where a purpose is to view or come into contact with any marine mammal.

Note: An activity does not have to be a specific marine mammal viewing tour to require a permit, viewing of marine mammals as a side activity of a trip (eg fishing charter, guided kayak tours, guided walking tours) will still need a permit if the above criteria are met.  Any advertising of marine mammal encounters on a website or social media is seen as a purpose as potential customers are led to believe they may be able to view marine mammals on a trip.

Do I need a marine mammal filming permit?

If you are filming within the Regulations using your own vessel a permit is not required. If you are chartering a vessel/skipper or operating outside of the Regulations, then a permit application needs to be made.  

Drones are currently classified as aircraft and should not be flown directly above a marine mammal and no closer than 150m horizontally. An application for a permit needs to be made to fly a drone closer than 150m horizontally, assessing the application consideration is given to the need to conserve, protect, or manage any marine mammal.

More information: Information for applicants - Marine Mammals Protection Regulations permits (PDF, 64K)

Applying for a permit

For all applications fill in: Form 8 – Applicant information – activities involving marine mammals (Word, 384K)

You will also need to fill in the form below that applies to your proposed activity:

Email the forms along with the relevant documents requested to

If your application is approved we will send you a permit which you must sign and return before proceeding with your activity.


We will invoice you once we have received your application. The processing fee is likely to be $2065 plus GST ($2374.75 including GST). If your application is for a new permit, there will also be additional costs to publicly notify your application.

We will send you an estimate of costs once we have received your application.


We ask that permit holders record sightings on their trips to help assist with managing the effects and conservation of marine mammals. Copies of the report templates can be found here:

Applications to take, hold, import or export marine mammals

Anyone wanting to take, hold, import, export marine mammals or parts thereof must have a permit from DOC.

Take includes:

(a) to take, catch, kill, injure, attract, poison, tranquillise, herd, harass, disturb, or possess
(b) to brand, tag, mark, or do any similar thing
(c) to flense, render down, or separate any part from a carcass
(d) to attempt to do any act specified in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) or paragraph (c).

Applying for a permit

For research applications fill in:

Form 12a - Holding, taking, importing, exporting marine mammals for research purposes (Word, 344K)

For non-research applications fill in:

Form 12b - Holding, taking, importing, exporting marine mammals for non-research purposes (Word, 350K)

Email the form along with the relevant documents requested to

Note, if you intend to import or export any marine mammal product also see: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

When a permit is not required

A permit is not required by any person who:

  • finds or collects bones, teeth, ivory, or ambergris that have already separated naturally from a marine mammal if that person, as soon as practicable, notifies DOC using the online form
  • finds any dead marine mammal or part of one and, if authorised to do so by an officer and under his directions, sends the mammal or part to the Department of Conservation or to any approved research establishment, laboratory, or public museum
  • is taking from or bringing into New Zealand any marine mammal product that is either an ornament, item for personal use or adornment (and is accompanying that person from or into New Zealand) which pre-dates 1978.


We will send you an estimate of fees before they are incurred and invoice you once we have processed your application. Contact us for further information.

Processing timeframe

The minimum time to process your application will be 55 working days. However, your application will take longer to process if:

  • your application is not complete
  • submissions are received. 

We will provide you with the estimated processing time when we receive your application.

Contact us

For more information or assistance with your application contact our Christchurch office.

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