The World Cetacean Alliance is delighted to hear that a marine mammal sanctuary has been declared by the Minister of Conservation in Te Pēwhairangi / Bay of Islands, New Zealand.
The WCA supported the sanctuary when it was at consultation stage and hopes that it will be effective in protecting bottlenose dolphins from boat activity and human interactions.
The sanctuary was proposed after research showed behavioural changes and a dramatic drop in the number of dolphins visiting the Bay.
Bottlenose dolphins are an iconic species for the local community and the sanctuary will introduce three key restrictions to keep them safe:
- vessels to maintain a 300m distance from all marine mammals;
- people to keep out of the water within 300m of all marine mammals; and
- vessels to keep to a 5-knot speed limit in two marine mammal safe zones.
Vanessa McKay is the Managing Director of Carino Wildlife Cruises, a WCA Partner in Te Pēwhairangi / Bay of Islands, and has been involved in long-term community efforts to establish the sanctuary.
Vanessa told the WCA:
“We are thrilled that the Te Pēwhairangi Marine Mammal Sanctuary has been declared.
It has been a long journey for us. 14 years ago, we noticed a marked decline in the number of dolphins that we saw. We also noted that, when we came across dolphins, it was almost always the same individuals and there was increasing boat traffic around them. We wanted to know why the dolphins’ behaviour had changed and how to protect them. So, we began an advocacy campaign to the Department of Conservation (DOC) on making the bottlenose dolphins in the Bay of Islands a DOC priority.
In the last five years, we’ve been working together as a community with the eight local Hapu (subtribes) and a dedicated DOC ranger, using scientific research to demonstrate the decline of bottlenose dolphins to the Bay of Islands. It truly has been a collaborative effort. The future for marine mammals in Te Pēwhairangi is positive: they will have areas that we know are important for breeding and resting, with a 5-knot max. speed on vessels. Boat numbers around dolphins will decrease, allowing the dolphins to engage in critical behaviours for survival. It won’t happen overnight, but it is a huge step in the right direction for protecting our precious taonga (treasures).”