Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC has put in place new permit conditions to protect bottlenose dolphins in the Bay of Islands, Northland.

Date:  29 August 2019

The new permits for commercial operators came into effect on 1 July 2019 and reduce viewing and interaction time, limit the locations for these activities and prohibit swimming with bottlenose dolphins.

Research shows interaction with bottlenose dolphins is having a significant impact on the population’s resting and feeding behaviour and that people are “loving the dolphins too much”.

The local Bay of Islands population has fallen by 66% since 1999 to a core group of only 19 dolphins frequently visiting the Bay of Islands now. Latest research shows a 75% calf mortality rate – the highest seen in New Zealand, internationally or in captivity.

A moratorium in place since 2009 means permits for viewing whales and dolphins in the region have been restricted to five permit holders operating commercial vessels. Currently four permit holders run out of the Bay of Islands and one out of Tutukaka.

Under the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations, restrictions were already in place to limit interactions with bottlenose dolphins, however, the research shows they are inadequate to protect the animals.

The Bay of Islands bottlenose dolphin population can only be protected if everyone plays their part.

Permit Conditions

Permits will be granted for 3 years, with the following restrictions and conditions:

  1. All swimming with bottlenose dolphins is prohibited.
  2. Areas at Tapeka Point and Roberton Island will be closed to commercial permit holders.
  3. All Operators will be restricted to viewing the bottlenose dolphin population either morning or afternoon in order to provide a block of time where no interactions are undertaken.
  4. The interaction time with bottlenose dolphins is reduced to a total of 20 minutes per trip (this total includes cumulative interactions).

Support for further resourcing for monitoring, compliance and education to ensure the health of the bottlenose dolphin population at the Bay of Islands

Investigating a proposal to create a marine mammal sanctuary for the Bay of Islands


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