- New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) has banned tourists from swimming with friendly bottlenose dolphins in the popular Bay of Islands because they were “loving the dolphins too much.”
- According to DOC, human interaction with the dolphins has led to a population decline since 1999.
- Research shows that just a core group of 19 dolphins visit the area these days.
- Additionally, the calf mortality rate in the tourist area is the highest seen in New Zealand, with a survival rate of just 25%.
- All swimming with the dolphins is now prohibited, and interactions with the dolphins will now be limited to 20 minutes per trip.
New Zealand has banned tourists from swimming with native bottlenose dolphins in the popular North Island tourist spot in an attempt to save the species from extinction.
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) said on Thursday new permit conditions have been put in place to protect the species in the region from population decline.
In its statement, DOC said research shows that human interactions with the dolphins have significantly impacted their resting and feeding behaviour. It added that people are “loving the dolphins too much.”
According to the DOC, the dolphin population in the Bay of Islands has fallen by 66% since 1999, leaving just a core group of 19 dolphins that frequently visit the heavily visited area. Additionally, the dolphin calf mortality rate in the area is the highest seen in New Zealand, with a survival rate of just 25%.
The government has restricted the number of tour operators with permits to sail commercial vessels to see the dolphins and whales in the area to just five operators.
The Marine Mammals Protection Regulations already had rules in place but they were not adequate to protect the species, DOC said.
All swimming with the dolphins is now prohibited, and certain areas, including Tapeka Point and Roberton Island, will be closed to commercial permit holders. Interactions with the dolphins will now be limited to 20 minutes per trip, and all tours will only be able to view the dolphins in the morning or afternoon so the dolphins can resume normal habits.
“The Bay of Islands bottlenose dolphin population can only be protected if everyone plays their part,” DOC said.
According to Stuff.co.nz, DOC is considering creating a sanctuary in the Bay of Islands. It is still possible to swim with dolphins in other parts of the country.
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