The Government is proposing to extend a ban on swimming with dolphins in the Bay of Islands to include all marine mammals.
By Thomas Day
The plan is an effort to curb the dramatic drop in the region’s bottlenose dolphin population, which has plummeted from 278 to just 26 over the past 20 years.
Experts say if no changes are made the mammal could be extinct in the bay as early as 2022.
Minister for Conservation Kiri Allan says “we have been monitoring the bottlenose dolphin situation in the Bay of Islands for the last 20 years, at the same time implementing measures to protect them when necessary”.
Another new restriction will require tour company vessels to maintain a 400-metre distance from marine mammals and to keep speeds to five knots within two “marine mammal safe zones.”
Latest research shows that the Bay of Islands has a 75 per cent dolphin calf mortality rate, making it the highest in New Zealand and the world.
The Government is joining with local iwi to develop a marine mammal sanctuary.
“I was able to witness the importance and urgency of having a sanctuary for our mammals in the Bay of Islands and educating the community to be an important part of saving our mammals,” said Ngā Hapū o te Pēwhairangi spokesperson Puti Corbett.
A public consultation period will be open for 28 days from April 12th allowing local residents and businesses to have their say, and the final decision will be made following that.