All marine mammals are fully protected in New Zealand waters under the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978, which the Department of conservation administers.

DOC rules and regulations

The Marine Mammals Protection Regulations 1992, was developed to manage the rapidly growing whale- and dolphin-watching industry. DOC is working with local tourism operators to reduce the effects of tourism on dolphins in places like Kaikoura, Bay of Islands and Fiordland.

These rules and regulations are for the protection of the marine animals. The rules and regulations state that we must:

  • Do not swim with dolphins when calves or juveniles are present
  • Do not to swim with dolphins if they are feeding or resting
  • Do not try to touch dolphins or feed them
  • Operate your boat slowly and quietly at “no wake” speed
  • Manoeuvre your boat sensitively near dolphins. Do not obstruct their path, cut through a group or separate mothers from calves
  • Avoid sudden noises that could startle the animals
  • Only swim with dolphins with authorised tourist operators
  • If the conditions of the Act are not met or the sea conditions are not safe then some trips will be viewing only