DOC launch appeal to identify those acting inappropriately around orca pod in Northland drone footage

The Department of Conservation has called on the public to help them identify those seen acting inappropriately around a pod of orca.

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One vessel is seen driving over the top of the killer whale at Helena Bay in Northland. Source: 1 NEWS

A drone video shared on Facebook shows boaties and a paddleboarder harassing killer whales in a Northland Bay, one vessel even driving over the top of one.

Senior Marine Ranger Dr Cat Peters told 1 NEWS the video taken at Helena Bay, north of Whangārei, is beautiful.

“You can see the animals moving around and I know people are really excited”, she said.

“The concern from a DOC point of view is the actions of the boats and the drone footage itself, is actually a breach of the marine mammal protection regulations.”

The regulations were in place to keep animals safe, Ms Peters said.

“The rules dictate you have to stay 50 metres away from all Orca, you’re not to cut off the direction of travel, drive over the top of them, come in front of them, and you also need to maintain a steady travel direction,” she said.

Put simply, she said it’s to “give them space and give them choice".

“The boats in this video were moving back and forth on top of the animals, you want to keep your boat nice and still, go in one direction, keep it slow and allow the animals to choose to come to you.”

Marine Mammal Officers are collating the relevant information about this incident, and will be looking to follow through with interviews and potentially prosecutions.

The penalty for breaking the rules include a fine of up to $100,000 or a year maximum imprisonment.

“We’re hoping by trying to follow it through that we also have an opportunity to try and tell the public about those rules and make sure if Orcas come close to our shore, or bottlenose come close, that they actually are aware of that," Ms Peters said.