If swimming with “wild” dolphins is on your bucket list, well…you’ll have to do it somewhere other than in New Zealand.
Bottlenose dolphins are intelligent, social creatures that can be found in most of the world’s waters, and because they’re keen to interact across species lines, many people want to experience their friendliness firsthand.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation, though, says that people are “loving the dolphins too much,” and that the amount and duration of close encounters is harming the species as a whole.
This new rule, which bans swimming with dolphins, went into effect on July 1, 2019, and applies to all commercial operators around the Bay of Islands. The laws also require operators to restrict viewing and interaction time to no more than 20 minutes per trip, and closes off certain areas around Tapeka Point and Roberton Island.
Additionally, operators may only interact with dolphins in the morning or in the afternoon, but not both, so the dolphins have at least half a day to themselves.
The Department of Conservation made the decision after several different studies have shown that too much interaction with humans can affect the dolphins’ resting and feeding behaviors. One study, published in 2010, found that dolphins get extremely stressed out when touched or even approached by humans – and that it could cause psychological problems that prevent them from resting, feeding, and nurturing their young.
Research has also uncovered the sad fact that calf mortality rate is rising toward 75% in some populations, which would be the highest anyone has seen anywhere (even in captivity).
With the number of dolphins in the Bay of Islands in a drastic decline (over a 66% decrease since 1999), the government of New Zealand felt as if it was their duty to act on their behalf.
Hopefully the actions will help the existing dolphins live happier, more natural lives, and maybe, in time, encourage more offspring and growing pods for everyone to enjoy.
I love dolphins as much as the next person, but if they’re not as big on people as they’ve seemed, then I say give them their space.
As a fellow introvert, I can definitely relate.