Located in the Northland region
The Bay of Islands is declared as a Marine Mammal Sanctuary under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. This was gazetted on 17 November 2021 by the Minister of Conservation and came into effect on 15 December 2021.
The Bay of Islands is a popular destination for boating. The Bay of Islands provides recreational boaties with a mixture of stunning scenery and a diverse range of marine life.
The Bay of Islands is a marine mammal sanctuary. Help protect marine mammals by following the instructions for vessel users.
The Bay of Islands unique landscape provides a range of opportunities for diving. It’s a summer hotspot for divers wanting to experience the range of marine ecosystems that exist in this area.
The Bay of Islands is a marine mammal sanctuary. No one is allowed in the water within 300 m of a marine mammal – diving is included in this. Help protect marine mammals by following the restrictions and guidance for diving.
The Bay of Islands is perfect for snorkelling, with a number of sheltered bays and unique landforms.
It’s also a marine mammal sanctuary, which gives marine mammals space for their natural behaviours free from human interactions. This means there are restrictions for swimming and snorkelling when marine mammals are present.
No one is allowed in the water within 300 m of a marine mammal – snorkelling and freediving is included in this.
The Bay of Islands is a summer hotspot, with warm clear waters perfect for swimming. The islands have many walking tracks, which lead to sheltered bays. These are the perfect way to cool off on a hot summers day.
It's a marine mammal sanctuary. Help protect marine mammals by following the restrictions while swimming.
No one is allowed in the water within 300 m of a marine mammal – swimming is included in this.
The Bay of Islands has a long history as a fishing destination. Fishing and gathering kaimoana is a common activity while in the Bay of Islands.
Fishing is allowed in the Bay of Islands. However, the marine mammal sanctuary has restrictions for vessels and it's important you know these before you go.
The Bay of Islands provides great kayaking opportunities, with various islands to explore. The islands are predator-free, so be sure to check your kayak and gear for animals before you leave the mainland.
The marine mammal sanctuary restrictions apply to all vessels including kayaks and canoes.
Places you can visit while you're in the Bay of Islands:
The Bay of Islands is a key tourism destination in Northland. It provides a number of recreational opportunities for boating, diving, snorkelling, and fishing. It also has a rich cultural history and a range of opportunities to see wildlife.
Coastal towns including Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri provide key sanctuary access points.
Keep marine mammals in the Bay of Islands safe by following the restrictions. All marine mammals are fully protected.
The Bay of Islands is declared as a marine mammal sanctuary under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. This was gazetted on 17 November 2021 by the Minister of Conservation and comes into effect on 15 December 2021.
The purpose of the Bay of Islands Marine Mammal Sanctuary is to:
The sanctuary restrictions intend to protect all marine mammals from interactions with vessels and people. The creation of safe zones give marine mammals designated areas of quiet. This gives them space to do their normal behaviours, including feeding and nursing, free from human distractions.
Bottlenose dolphins are being viewed as an indicator species - research shows a reduction in survival critical behavioural and a drop in the number of bottlenose dolphins visiting the Bay of Islands.
An indicator species is one whose presence and use of an area tells us more about the condition of a specific environment. In this case, they tell us more about the condition of the Bay of Islands marine environment. The sanctuary aims to protect all marine mammals and contribute to a thriving marine ecosystem.
The sanctuary is managed by a DOC-hapū advisory committee. This committee makes management decisions and recommendations in line with the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. This joint management shows DOC’s commitment to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The sanctuary was developed in partnership with a collective of Te Pēwhairangi hapū. This was informed by key research including 2016 research which details the effects of vessel interactions on bottlenose dolphin. The marine mammal sanctuary was created through a consultation process.
Mana whenua have extensive knowledge of Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) marine mammals – their life cycles, roles and interrelationships within ecosystems and tikanga/cultural practices. Acknowledging whakapapa and including mātauranga Māori is key to managing marine mammals in Te Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands).
As stated by Robert Willoughby, Te Pēwhairangi hapū member:
“Mātauranga Māori encompasses a holistic world view. It starts from the heavens, comes down to earth and covers everything in between. Our ancestors imparted knowledge to us in waiata, legends and chants and there are words that keep being emphasised like whakapapa, mauri, oranga and kaitiakitanga.
These all have relevance to the current kaupapa in front of us right now and are a major part of the long-term solution we are seeking. However, He Whakaputanga 1835 and Te Tiriti o Waitangi 1840, Article 2, is also part of our narrative.
Without delving into the details and the vastness of that history, it may just suffice to say that the intention and spirit of Te Tiriti was and still is to work together in partnership and to build a great nation.
Through this proposed marine mammal sanctuary, Mana Whenua and the Crown would have a perfect opportunity to set an example of working together on a common goal and to achieve a worthy outcome which is to protect and sustain our taonga, the dolphins.”
"The bottlenose dolphin is a taonga species for Te Pēwhairangi hapū. They are kaitiaki, protectors (guardians) of our people. Tohunga were known to call the dolphins. They are a gauge on the health of our fishery and moana and represent the closeness of the whanau.”