Ob­serv­ing rules around sea mam­mals

Kaikoura Star - - NEWS -

There’s noth­ing like meet­ing one of our many marine mam­mal species face-to-face and boat­ies get the best view of all.

Marl­bor­ough is renowned for its species di­ver­sity and the Sounds is a dol­phin mecca with common, bot­tlenose, dusky and Hec­tor’s dol­phin, and the ma­jes­tic orca (yes orca are dol­phins).

On oc­ca­sion we have longfinned pi­lot whales (also a dol­phin), hump­back and south­ern right whales vis­it­ing, and blue and minke whales cruis­ing through Cook Strait.

Kaik­oura is home to more with sperm, hump­back and south­ern right whales as well as orca, longfinned pi­lot whales and thou­sands of dusky dol­phins. And, love them or hate them, we have seals – mainly fur seals and the oc­ca­sional leopard seal.

Some of th­ese species are ex­tremely rare – there are less than 1000 coastal bot­tlenose dol­phins around New Zealand – less than Hec­tor’s with a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of more than 9000.

There are also less than 200 orca in New Zealand.

Some species are, of course, more common.

There are 100,000 fur seals but this is still con­sid­er­ably less than pre-seal­ing days when there were more than two mil­lion.

Re­gard­less of how rare or common a species may be, all marine mam­mals are un­der threat. En­tan­gle­ment in fish­ing and marine farm­ing equip­ment, swal­low­ing marine de­bris and pol­lu­tion, dis­ease, seis­mic sur­vey­ing and im­pacts on food sup­ply all have the po­ten­tial to af­fect in­di­vid­u­als and re­duce num­bers.

One of the best ways to pro­tect a species is to en­cour­age peo­ple to en­joy and trea­sure them. But by un­der­tak­ing this very ac­tiv­ity we could be harm­ing them.

Boats can cause sig­nif­i­cant dis­tur­bance to marine mam­mals. While you may en­counter a dol­phin for only five min­utes, once you leave the same dol­phin is vis­ited by boat after boatin the peak sea­son. This means the dol­phin (or whale or seal) does not get to do what they are sup­posed to do – feed, so­cialise and rest.

Boat noise is a sig­nif­i­cant dis­tur­bance and death or in­jury from pro­peller strike a very real threat.

It’s not all bad as this in­ad­ver­tent dis­tur­bance can be re­duced.

All hu­man in­ter­ac­tion with marine mam­mals is reg­u­lated by the Marine Mam­mals Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tions, and while this sounds daunt­ing, it comes down to a few common sense rules.

When you spot a dol­phin, whale or seal from your boat slow down. Of­ten in our ex­cite­ment when see­ing one of th­ese trea­sures we get ‘‘buck fever’’ – all sense deserts us.

Boats must travel at a ‘‘no-wake speed’’ when within 300m of any marine mam­mal.

Wait your turn – there must be no more than three boats within 300m of a marine mam­mal. Ap­proach from the rear or par­al­lel to the pod or in­di­vid­ual. Do not cut off, cir­cle or drive through any pod of dol­phins or whales.

When leav­ing, move to the side, keep boat di­rec­tion and speed pre­dictable, and slowly in­crease speed to out-dis­tance them. And this is the tricky bit – while bi­o­log­i­cally dol­phins, orca (and pi­lot whales) are con­sid­ered as whales in the Reg­u­la­tions. You must keep 50m away from all whales.

To know more the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion is hold­ing evening pre­sen­ta­tions this sum­mer at the Kaik­oura Memo­rial Hall on the Jan­uary 8. All pre­sen­ta­tions 7pm till 8.30pm, sup­per pro­vided.

For more de­tails email skip­pers course@doc.govt.nz.

Good be­hav­iour: Boats can cause sig­nif­i­cant dis­tur­bance to marine mam­mals.

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