Protect newborn dolphins

Press Release – Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is concerned by several reports of Hector’s dolphins being harassed by water craft around Banks Peninsula. DOC’s Akaroa Field Ranger, Derek Cox, regularly patrols the waters around the peninsula and is worried …20 December 2011

Protect newborn dolphins

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is concerned by several reports of Hector’s dolphins being harassed by water craft around Banks Peninsula.

DOC’s Akaroa Field Ranger, Derek Cox, regularly patrols the waters around the peninsula and is worried about the safety of these rare and vulnerable dolphins.

“Jet skiers have caused particular concern in recent years,” says Cox.

“Please be aware of the dolphins when out on the water. They can be very friendly and inquisitive. Obey the marine mammal regulations and slow right down or stop when near them.”

Hector’s dolphins/upokohue come close inshore to breed during the summer months. Unfortunately, this is also when numbers of boats and jet skis increase, especially over the holiday season in Akaroa and Lyttelton harbours.

Newborn dolphins are particularly vulnerable to injury as they swim close to the surface and relatively slowly. Some have been killed by boat propellers, when unwary boaties have run them over.

“Let the dolphins come to you and if they decide to move away, let them go,” says Cox.

“Making sudden changes in speed or direction should be avoided especially around mothers and calves who are unable to react as fast as adult dolphins.”

Derek Cox will be patrolling the coastline over the holidays along with ranger, Steve Parker, who will also be at boat ramps, providing information to the public.

“Report any incidents where marine mammals are being harassed or these rules are not being followed, to 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468),” Cox requests.

“Your call could prevent the unnecessary death of a dolphin calf.”

The following rules apply when sharing the water with any marine mammal:

• Ensure that you travel no faster than idle or ‘no wake’ speed within 300 metres of any marine mammal.
• Approach whales and dolphins from behind and to the side.
• Do not circle them, obstruct their path or cut through any group.
• There should be no more than three vessels and/or aircraft within 300 metres of any marine mammal.
• Idle slowly away. Speed may be gradually increased to out-distance dolphins and should not exceed 10 knots within 300 metres of any dolphin.

Fore more information visit www.doc.govt.nz/sharingcoasts

Background information

Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978

All seals, dolphins, whales and porpoises are fully protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978; it is an offence, amongst other things, to harass or disturb marine mammals.

Offences carry penalties of up to 6 months imprisonment or fines up to $250,000 and further fines of up to $10,000 for every marine mammal in respect of which the offence is committed. Refer to the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations 1992 for a complete list of conditions prescribing behaviour around marine mammals.

Visit: www.legislation.govt.nz

General

• Do not disturb, harass or make loud noises near marine mammals.
• Contact should be ceased should marine mammals show any signs of becoming disturbed or alarmed.
• Do not feed or throw any rubbish near marine mammals.
• Avoid sudden or repeated changes in speed or direction of any vessel or aircraft near a marine mammal.
• There should be no more than three vessels and/or aircraft within 300 metres of any marine mammal.

On shore

• Give seals and sea lions space. Where practicable stay at least 20 metres away.
• Avoid coming between fur seals and the sea.
• Keep dogs on a leash and well away.
• Where practicable, do not drive vehicles closer than 50 metres of a marine mammal.
• Never attempt to touch seals or sea lions – they can be aggressive and often carry diseases.

Marine reserves:

Within a marine reserve, all marine life is protected and fishing and the removal or disturbance of any living or non-living marine resource is prohibited, except as necessary for permitted monitoring or research. This includes dredging, dumping or discharging any matter or building structures.

The public is welcome and encouraged to enjoy marine reserves. In all marine reserves you may: dive, snorkel, take photos, swim, kayak, anchor (with care), navigate through, picnic on the beach, build sand castles, investigate in rock pools etc.

However we ask that people make sure they check the boundaries of marine reserves around New Zealand’s coastline and not fish inside these sea sanctuaries.

ENDS

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