Thu, 22 Apr 2021

Conservation Minister Kiri Allan is encouraging New Zealanders to have their say on a proposed marine mammal sanctuary to address the rapid decline of bottlenose dolphins in Te Pēwhairangi, the Bay of Islands.

The proposal, developed jointly with Ngā Hapū o te Pēwhairangi, would protect all marine mammals of the Bay of Islands and provide much needed safety for the bottlenose dolphin population which is seriously impacted by vessels and people.

Scientific research shows a massive 91 per cent decline in the local Bay of Islands bottlenose dolphin population, from 278 in 1999 to just 26 recognisable individuals in 2020. Of this 26, only 16 now frequently visit the Bay.

"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," Kiri Allan said.

"However ongoing human activity has had a significant impact on the biologically important behaviours of these mammals, behaviours which are critical to their survival.

"Latest research shows a 75 per cent calf mortality rate - the highest seen both in New Zealand and internationally. In the summer of 2019/2020, no new calves were born for the first time on scientific record.

"That highlights the need for further action and why we are now consulting on the sanctuary proposal.

"The process will include community drop in sessions with a public consultation document being released to assist people to make their views known," Kiri Allan said.

Note: The Sanctuary proposal that will be released for consultation includes the following restrictions:

For the Bay of Islands:

No swimming with marine mammals; Vessels to maintain a 400m distance from marine mammals; and

Within the Bay of Islands:

Vessel speed to be restricted to 5 knots within two "marine mammal safe zones".

Public consultation will open on 12 April for 28 days. A decision on the proposal will be made following the consultation process.

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