"Seeing bottlenose dolphins out on the water is one of the highlights of the Bay of Islands", says the Department of Conservation Bay of Islands' marine mammal ranger, Elke Reufels.
"But scientific studies show a decline in the Bay of Islands' bottlenose dolphin population and many bottlenose dolphin calves do not survive their first year of life. While we do not know what has caused the drop in dolphin numbers, we do know the bay is a very busy place in summer - both above the water and below -, which is when the dolphins give birth to their young. So it is really important that everybody out and about in a boat helps look after them."
Bottlenose dolphins in the Bay of Islands
It is fine to approach the dolphins to have a closer look but please do so on the dolphins' terms. Boats must come in slowly – at no wake speed – from the side and from behind. Never drive through a pod or cut them off, and, if the dolphins don't want to play, please leave them be.
Remember, there should be no more than three boats at any one time within 300m of a dolphin pod. Please wait for your turn and keep your visit short and sweet – no more than 10 minutes – so everyone can enjoy the dolphins' company.
Please keep an eye out for dolphin mums and their calves (any dolphin less than half the size of an adult dolphin). As with all little ones, dolphin calves need special care. Please do not swim with dolphin pods if they have young dolphins amongst them.
Reufels says, "The dolphins need some time out from people and boats, especially during the holidays, so they can get on with doing the things that they need to keep them healthy such as feeding and resting. And the mums need some peace and quiet too, to care for their babies without having to worry about boats around them. You can help look after these amazing animals by giving the dolphins a break during the day. Please do not approach them between 11:30 am and 1 pm."
"If we want the dolphins to stay around in the Bay for years to come," says Reufels, "we need to watch out for them and make sure the Bay is a safe place for them to bring up their little ones."
If you see a stranded or injured marine mammal, please phone 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).