Introduction

A new Department of Conservation course aims at minimising impacts of vessel activity on whales, dolphins and seals.

Marlborough Sounds and Kaikoura commercial boat and kayak skippers, managers and tourism guides have taken part in a new Department of Conservation (DOC) course over the weekend. The course was aimed at minimising impacts of vessel activity on whales, dolphins and seals.

The SMART course, an acronym for 'Sustainable Marine Mammal Actions in Recreation and Tourism', aims to raise awareness of the rules for vessels around marine mammals.

It also helps skippers assess the behaviour of seals, dolphins and whales they encounter so they can make appropriate decisions when interacting with them.

DOC Partnerships Ranger Wendy Sullivan for Waitohi/Picton Office said a high attendance at the courses reflected commercial boat operators’ desire to ensure their activities do not adversely affect marine mammals.

“Marlborough Sounds and Kaikoura commercial operators already have a strong ethos in protecting marine mammals, and this course is a way to ensure that the sometimes hard to interpret Marine Mammals Protection Regulations become clearer”.

Skippers from DOC, the Ministry for Primary Industries and King Salmon also attended the courses. In total over 80 people attended.

The course will be part of a wider programme, where commercial operators can sign up to be SMART Operators.

“It is our goal that the SMART Operator programme will become recognised and targeted by 'green-tourists' – tourists who look for reassurance that their experience is eco-friendly and sustainable,” said Wendy Sullivan.

DOC plans to hold courses for recreational boaties in summer, and skippers wanting more information on this can contact the DOC office in Picton.

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