Splashing around with bottlenose dolphins off New Zealand’s North Island may be a dream for travelers, but it’s proven problematic for the species, leading the Oceanic nation to put the kibosh on up-close encounters with bottlenose dolphins in the Bay of Islands.
Tour operators will no longer be able to offer visitors the chance to swim with the marine mammals, nor will they be permitted to have any interactions exceeding 20 minutes. To ensure the dolphins are not inundated, operators will also have to visit all at once, either in the morning or afternoon.
Because they like to hang around the coast, New Zealand’s bottlenose dolphins are particularly susceptible to human interaction, which affects their resting and feeding habits. These behavioral changes have contributed to a 66 percent decrease in the population since 1990, according to the Department of Conservation, which also reported that only 19 bottlenose dolphins regularly visit the Bay of Islands these days.
Prohibiting tourists from swimming with the dolphins is a start, but the DOC is also looking into establishing a marine mammal sanctuary in partnership with local Māori tribes and other research parties.