All marine mammals are fully protected in New Zealand waters under the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978.

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:

  • Never swim with dolphins when calves or juveniles are present
  • Do not to swim with dolphins if they are feeding or resting
  • At no time 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


Your sightings of dolphins can be reported to the 0800 DOC HOTline (0800 362 468). These are always of interest and help increase our knowledge of cetacean distribution and movements around New Zealand.

If you would like to help, listed below are some organisations and conservation groups that can provide assistance:

WWF International
Whale & Dolphin Conservation
Cetacean Society International
Oceanic Research Foundation