Application withdrawn for marine mammal jet ski tours in Lyttelton Harbour
IntroductionChristchurch company Jet Junkies has withdrawn its permit application to run jet ski propelled boat tours to view marine mammals including Hector’s dolphins/upokohue in Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour.
Date: 11 August 2023
The decision comes after a meeting with Department of Conservation (DOC) staff, during which a range of issues affecting the protection of Hector’s dolphins, and how targeted marine mammal tours can add to these, were discussed.
DOC Mahaanui Operations Manager Andy Thompson says DOC staff were concerned the tours could put upokohue at further risk and had formed a preliminary view to decline the application, although no formal decision was made.
A preliminary view is reached after DOC staff have considered relevant technical advice, cultural impacts and public submissions, but before these have been discussed with the applicant.
“Whakaraupō is a busy harbour and there are already likely to be considerable cumulative effects on the local Hector’s dolphins from vessel traffic,” Andy Thompson says.
“Research from nearby Akaroa Harbour indicates tourism activities impact Hector’s dolphins, and these are cumulative alongside the effects of other vessel traffic. Impacts could include changes to behaviour including changes to when and where dolphins are found in the harbour.
“We do not think the conservation benefits from public education through tourism outweigh the potential adverse effects of this proposal, especially given there are six existing dolphin tour operations in nearby Akaroa.”
Andy Thompson acknowledges Jet Junkies staff have worked constructively with DOC while the application was being processed. This has included changing the company’s application to reduce the proposed number of daily trips and to use a Sealver, or jet ski propelled boats, so customers would not be operating jet skis near marine mammals.
Jet Junkies CEO Kevin Scovell says, “We will continue to operate our strict accidental discovery protocols around marine mammals while out on our existing Jet Ski Tours. We would like to thank DOC staff for their work, and we look forward to building on this relationship between us.”
Andy Thompson says upokohue already face challenges include disturbance, habitat reduction, overfishing, water quality, bycatch risk, warming seas, toxoplasmosis and noise.
Hector’s dolphins/upokohue are one of the world’s smallest dolphins, about 1.5m long. They are nationally vulnerable, with a population of about 15,700, and are primarily found around the South Island’s coastline. Banks Peninsula is a hotspot for the species.
More information on the application is available at Application for a marine mammal permit by Jet Junkies Limited
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