COVID ALERT LEVEL 2 - All operations and experiences are running with safety measures in place. October School holidays promotions on sale. Kids Cruise free in Akaroa and Quail Island Treasure Hunt in Lyttelton. See specials page for dealss
Due to alcohol being served this event is strictly for over 18’s only.Thank you
If you’re unable to join us on the cruise you can always visit Melton Estate and enjoy the taste of local boutique wine, only 15 minutes from Christchurch Airport. There are 9 different wines to try, including the acclaimed “Summer Love Sparkling”. Walk amongst the vines or sip wine inside the modern winery restaurant. Combining winery style and sophisticated facilities, Melton Estate is the perfect choice for lunch, wine tastings, weddings and other family celebrations, as well as company conferences and meeting events. Opening Hours: 10am to 5pm Thursday to Sunday, and by arrangement.
On the 24th June, the
Government released its long-awaited plan to help protect Hectors (and Maui)
dolphins. This is the end of a process that began 2 years ago and is the result
of many meetings, plans, submissions and feedback from all – including the
fishing industry, conservationists, scientists, and us, the tourism industry
who make a living from our interaction with this very special dolphin.
The reason this is so important is that it is a once in 20-year event to help secure the future for these rare native dolphins.
So, what happened? We are going to focus on the area off Banks Peninsula, our home patch, and talk about the changes coming in from the 1st October 2020.
1.A nationwide ban on drift netting
This is a good move but in reality, this fishing method doesn’t exist in 2020, so whilst it does ‘plug a hole’ for the future it’s not that meaningful.
2. An extension of current set-net closures, and the creation of new areas closed to set-netting, around Banks Peninsula. (see map 1)
The decision is to
create new ‘set net free’ areas both north and south of Banks Peninsula – good
news for the local population of dolphins.
However, it creates a
‘death zone’ in the space between these two banned areas, ironically in the
area outside Akaroa Harbour. We lobbied hard to close this area to set net
fishing too. Not only do we know dolphins are present there, but also it
creates a worse impact by forcing fishing activity from the banned area to the
unbanned area outside of Akaroa.
The ministers have proposed to ‘consult on further extending the commercial and recreational set-net closures around Banks Peninsula’. They have said ‘consultation is required because this measure was not included in options discussed with the public previously.’ There is no information on how and when this discussion takes place.
In addition the proposal does not appear to plug the current issue which allows recreational flounder set nets inside the upper parts of Akaroa and Lyttelton Harbours, Pigeon Bay and Port Levy from April to September which we know are a clear threat to dolphins. That is very disappointing.
3.Increasing marine mammal sanctuary area around Banks Peninsula. (see map 2)
The proposal is to
extend the sanctuary up and down the coast and further out to sea, but to be
clear this is not a fishing restriction.
The main benefit to
this extension is it addresses the risks of future seismic surveying and seabed
mining by prohibiting new permits in the expanded marine mammal protection
areas. To our knowledge none are planned here but it does prevent a possible
You can submit your support for this here (deadline 21st July 2020)
4.Roll out the toxoplasmosis action plan
This is a disease probably contained in cat faeces washing into rivers with the dolphins somehow ingesting enough to kill them. There have been some dead dolphins examined on beaches with toxoplasmosis being the most likely final cause of death. This may be an issue for the dolphins or may not. We agree it needs further scientific research and planning.
5.No restrictions on trawling
There are NO new
restrictions on trawling at this stage in or around Banks Peninsula.
However, the minister
(of fisheries) wants to look at the ways trawling is carried out, such as
trawl speed and headline height of the net, in an effort to further reduce the
risk to dolphins while still allowing use of the fishery.
It’s hard to know
what this means but we suspect the status quo will be retained, a disappointing
We’re grateful for
all the work that has been done by NZ government officials into coming up with
the plan and for the ministers for their action to date. Further protections
have been put in place to secure the future of these dolphins so we can’t be
unhappy with that.
But we’re very keen
for the ‘death zone’ to be closed near Akaroa, and to hear more about the
trawling study. And in due course hear more about the real threat from
Well i think it’s safe to safe we are all looking forward to a three day weekend where we can get out and #exploreyourplace in our beautiful backyard!
So we are pleased to let you know that we will be operating our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise giving you the perfect excuse to take a day trip or long weekend in Akaroa. And for those staying closer to Christchurch we will be operating the Quail Island Ferry from Lyttelton on Saturday, Sunday and Monday #discoversomethingnewnz
We are offering a 25% on our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise over the long weekend when you book online and use the code ‘UNITE’. As we are still operating with restricted numbers to give you extra space and peace of mind we highly recommend booking in advance #supportlocal
Under 5’s Travel Free
A reminder that under 5’s travel for free on our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise and Quail Island ferry all year round regardless #familyfirst
Escape, relax and spend some time discovering a #purenz experience…..
The Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise will be operating at 11am and 1.30pm over these three days. Sat & Sun are fully booked at 1.30pm.
The Quail Island Ferry will depart Lyttelton at 10.20 am & 12.20pm, returning at 12.30pm & 3.30pm
We highly recommend booking in advance online as numbers are limited to ensure you have maximum space and peace of mind. Our 1.30pm Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise on the Saturday and Sunday are already fully booked Thank you to all of our customers helping to #backyourbackyard
You can view our booking calendar here. Simply select the product and date you wish you travel to check availability. From all of us at #blackcatcruises we hope to see you out there!
Hi guys, we hope you are all keeping safe and well.
Over the last month here at Black Cat we’ve taken time to pause, take a deep breath and connect with family and friends either in our bubble or online. We’ve also been busy working on projects so that when the time is right we can safely return to cruising the waters in Akaroa and Lyttelton.
During this time we also reached out to a long standing friend of ours, marine mammal and Hector’s dolphin expert Professor Liz Slooten. We’ve worked alongside Professor Slooten since we first started operating back in 1985. She is a wealth of knowledge and true champion and advocate for New Zealand’s endemic and endangered dolphin.
Black Cat Cruises Skipper Julian Yates jumped online to have a good chat with Liz about life as a marine mammal scientist and her experiences in the field, along with many other important topics including the current estimate of the Hector’s dolphin population.
We can’t wait to get back out on the water with you all when it is safe to do so.
In the meantime stay safe, be kind and have a watch below…..
We have also created a short edited version for those that may like to watch….
Celebrate Seaweek 2020 by cruising stunning Lyttelton Harbour with Black Cat Cruises and the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust! Each cruise will also host a very special expert guest from the trust, so you can you learn directly from the scientists studying Hector’s dolphins.
What is Seaweek?
Seaweek – Kaupapa Moana is New Zealand’s annual national week celebrating the sea which takes place from Saturday 29 February to Sunday 8 March 2020.
Seaweek Lyttelton Harbour Cruise
Step aboard our spacious catamaran, Canterbury Cat and search for the endangered Hector’s dolphin as you’re taken on a guided cruise around Lyttelton Harbour along with a special scientific guest from the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust.
The cruise will last for 1.5 hours and all profits will be donated to the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust.
29 February 2020 7 March 2020 8 March 2020
1:30PM – 3:00PM
Adults: $30.00 Children (5-15 years): $20.00 Children under 5: FREE
Starting tomorrow is Department of Conservation – Conservation Week 2019! This year proudly celebrates 50 years of Conservation Week here in NZ – an amazing feat! The week runs from the 14th of September through to the 22nd of September 2019 in locations all over New Zealand.
Why do we need a Conservation Week?
New Zealand’s wildlife is still in crisis with more than 4,000 of our native animals (including the Hector’s dolphin) and plants threatened or at risk. Conservation Week is a chance to bring everyone together to do something, big or small to create change.
Every year Conservation Week sees thousands of New Zealanders getting involved through doing conservation activities at home or attending one of many events hosted across the country. Creating change can be big or small, when we pull together, we can make a big difference.
Black Cat and Conservation
Black Cat may be well known as a tourism operator, but did you know that we’re also a leader in environmental management? From reducing energy consumption to donating a portion of every passenger fare to dolphin conservation, Black Cat takes extra measures to ensure the preservation of our environment. We have recently also been nominated for the Conservation Awards at the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards.
New Zealand’s first eco-tourism operator
Established in 1985 as Akaroa Harbour Cruises, we can claim to be New Zealand’s first eco-tourism enterprise. We launched with the intention of showing off Hector’s dolphins as well as the other creatures and scenery of Banks Peninsula. Naturally, such a reliance on the natural environment encouraged Black Cat to foster a keen interest in maintaining the health and beauty of Akaroa Harbour right from the start.
Actions to protect the environment
Black Cat works hard to protect the environment. First, we reduce our energy consumption (we aim for an annual reduction of 1% per person) through actions such as:
Maintaining our vessels for maximum efficiency
Encouraging our staff to walk or bike to work
Monitoring fuel usage
Using energy saving light bulbs and efficient heating
We also take care to minimise the by-products from the energy we do use. By recycling and using biodegradable cleaning products, Black Cat is able to reduce the amount of waste resulting from our operation.
Education and advocacy
Black Cat takes pride in giving back to the environment and the community through advocacy, education and sponsorship. Each year we donate at least $70,000 to programmes that support causes like marine mammal research and education, Quail Island restoration and penguin predator trapping.
In February 2019, we launched the Protect Hector’s campaign to increase public awareness of the threat to Hector’s dolphins and the vital need for their protection. The campaign focussed on encouraging individuals to get involved in the 2019 Threat Management Plan consultation. We created a landing page within the Black Cat Cruises website where people can fill in their details and a postcard will be sent on their behalf to Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, calling for better protection for Hector’s. Physical postcards were also placed on all Black Cat’s boats in both Lyttelton and Akaroa.
We also have a strong commitment to marine environment education and the
plight of the Hector’s dolphin in schools.
In 2017, Black Cat developed a new marine based educational resource for
schools and the pilot programme launched Nov 2017. The programme included
resource books for teachers and corresponding workbook for the students aimed
at Year 3 and 4 students.
What is Black Cat Cruises doing for Conservation Week?
To celebrate 50 years of Conservation Week, Black Cat Cruises is letting kids cruise for free from the 14th-22nd of September! (T’s and C’s apply).
This fun 2 hour cruise suitable for all ages is packed with stunning highlights including the endemic (only found in NZ) and playful Hector’s dolphin, as well as White-flippered Little Blue penguins, NZ Fur seals and abundant birdlife. You’ll see giant volcanic sea cliffs, view dramatic scenery and hear about Akaroa’s fascinating past. Cruises depart every day, weather permitting.
Conservation Week Special!
? Kids Cruise Free during Conservation Week (14–22 Sept) ? One child free per paying adult ? Direct bookings only via phone, email or online at the Black Cat website using promocode NATURE ? Kids will also receive a free Hector’s dolphin fun activity book to learn all about the endangered Hector’s dolphin!
We are very proud of our incredible team and their commitment to protecting the Banks Peninsula marine environment and its inhabitants, especially the endangered Hector’s dolphin.
This is a great honour that recognises not only the work put in to campaign for better protection of the Hector’s dolphins this year, but also the education and information we pass onto our customers each and every day.
Stay tuned for the results late October 2019! Yahhhooo.
On a stunning, sunny winter’s day in Ōtautahi (Christchurch), Black Cat hosted a group of delegates from the TECNZ (Tourism Export Council) 2019 Conference over on Quail Island for a day of native tree planting.
This group of keen gardeners assisted the Quail Island Restoration Trust by planting 100 trees and had a fantastic day exploring this hidden Christchurch gem, soaking up the warm sun and giving back. Thanks so much to everyone that took part!
We’ve unlocked the mystery behind the recently released Threat Management Plan (from here in we’ll call it the TMP). It’s a very complex document which will bamboozle and confuse the average New Zealander. And even some of the best brains in this space took many hours to understand it!
The TMP outlines recommendations to the Ministers’ of Conservation and Fisheries for further protection of Hector’s and Māui dolphins.
It’s a once in 20 year chance to make a positive impact on our precious native dolphins. Government is now calling for public submissions on the plan by 19th August 2019.
We’ve analysed the document from a Banks Peninsula perspective (sorry we did not look at proposed changes outside of Canterbury).
4 Things You Need to Know
The TMP will allow up to 49 Hector’s dolphins to be caught in nets per year off the East Coast of the South Island of NZ. Apparently this is acceptable because we can let that many drown, and the population will recover to become thriving again! We don’t think that a plan that calls for one dead dolphin a week is acceptable.
Option 3, the best scenario for the dolphins proposes protection north and south of Banks Peninsula but leaves a huge unprotected hole near Akaroa. We’ve called this the ‘death zone’. This will force fishermen currently operating in Pegasus Bay and Timaru to fish off Akaroa creating an even worse situation than today for the local dolphin population.
Given the above, it seems to ignore the vital economic value created by Hector’s dolphins off Akaroa. The total estimated economic value from set netting is $3.5M and trawl fishing is $8.7M per year in the South Island. (there is no information of how these numbers were derived). Eco-tourism drives $25M per year for Banks Peninsula alone. The proposed option 3 changes reduces fishing revenue by just $170,000 per year in Pegasus Bay and $870,000 in South Canterbury. A small amount compared to the tourism benefits. Further extension to close the ‘death zone’ will also have very minor economic impact.
The TMP is silent on allowing flounder nets inside Akaroa and Lyttelton during the winter months. It’s therefore proposing for this to continue placing risks for the dolphins in the upper harbours. We know for sure dolphins have been caught in these nets recently. Here’s a press article discussing it.
Where are the Dolphins?
The death zone has been justified in the TMP because sightings are seemingly lower off Akaroa. This is simply incorrect and goes against everything we know about the dolphins.
There are many dolphin sightings in the death zone as mapped out below using data from many surveys since 2002.
The TMP has tried to model the habitat of dolphins using a number of assumptions. One is related to public sightings; clearly there aren’t many recreational boats 10 miles off the Akaroa heads! The second is related to water clarity. They have assumed where the water is quite clear, there aren’t many dolphins. This is pretty bad science given the sighting data we have from Otago University.
The Hector’s population around Banks Peninsula is the largest in NZ. The TMP says, therefore it’s OK for many to die in nets. A scenario that’s not acceptable and is completely at odds with our international brand position.
The dolphins face many threats around our national coast lines. Some other sub populations may not survive meaning the Banks Peninsula population has to be strong and thriving. There is no room for set nets. The TMP calls for the BP population to recover to 80% of its carrying capacity (ie best case population) whereas the stakeholder working groups all agreed that 90-95% was more appropriate.
Toxo is a Red Herring
A brief note on Toxoplasmosis which features in the TMP. This is a disease probably contained in cat poo (yes) washing into rivers with the dolphins somehow ingesting enough to kill them. There have been some dead dolphins examined on beaches with toxoplasmosis being the most likely final cause of death. This may be an issue for the dolphins or may not. We simply don’t have enough reliable information.
We know right now 100% that nets are killing dolphins and we have the chance to deal with it today. Toxo is forgive the pun a complete red herring. For this to be included as major threat (and greater than fishing) in the TMP is a significant issue and calls into question the whole integrity of the process.
When is a Sanctuary Not a Sanctuary?
The TMP proposes to expand the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary out to 20 miles and further up and down the coast, which at a quick read sounds like good news. However we need to be clear that the sanctuary only provides protection for non-fishing threats such as restrictions on seismic surveying and seabed mining. The TMP contradicts itself by calling for non-fishing protection out to 20 miles (ie accepting there are dolphins in this range to be protected), but then allowing fishing within the sanctuary by seemingly saying there are few dolphins in the range.
How Can You Help?
Please help the dolphins by emailing this address firstname.lastname@example.org. outlining your concerns about the situation above.
A plan calling for one dead Hector’s dolphin a week is not acceptable.
The death zone off Banks Peninsula is not acceptable. We need net bans all around the peninsula where the dolphins range including in the area off Akaroa Heads.
Expand the netting ban to include flounder nets in the upper harbours from April to Sept.
Support option 3 of the plan around Canterbury BUT with further extensions out to 100m in depth.
Support the TMP proposal for a larger marine mammal sanctuary to protect against mining and other non fishing threats in future.
The best way to make an impact is by sending a personal email with your concerns to email@example.com or you can fill in one of the on-line surveys here or here or here.
Submissions close Monday 19 August 2019.
At the end of the consultation period, DOC and Fisheries New Zealand will analyse your submissions and present them to the Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation for their decision.
A team from Black Cat Cruises and the Department of Conservation recently swam across Akaroa Harbour from Tikao Bay to Akaroa Main Beach, to help raise awareness for the protection of the Hector’s dolphin. An amazing feat for an amazing cause!
The reason behind the swim
Swimming across Akaroa Harbour wasn’t an easy task, but the team had a very worthy reason as to why they wanted to complete this epic journey – the protection of the beloved Hector’s dolphin.
Hector’s dolphins are one of the world’s rarest dolphin species. It’s estimated there are somewhere between 8000 to 15000 Hectors left – fewer than 30% of their original population. And their close cousin, the North Island Maui dolphin has just 55 individuals.
The greatest threat to the Hector’s is getting caught and drowned in set nets. As their name suggests, fishers drop the net to the ocean floor and come back later to pull it up. Unfortunately, the net is very difficult for a dolphin to detect and they drown if caught.
We’re seeking to ensure the Banks Peninsula Sanctuary is a safe place for dolphins. We want to see an an extension of the commercial set net ban out to 100m depth (around 20 miles). In addition an extension of the sanctuary up and down the South Island.
Ensure the Banks Peninsula Marine
Mammal Sanctuary is a safe place for dolphins.
Secure an extension of the
commercial ban out to 100m depth (around 20 miles).
Secure an extension of the Marine
Mammal Sanctuary up and down the South Island.
The Hector’s and Māui dolphins Threat Management Plan is coming up for review shortly and we have a small window of time to help. We are calling on our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to put much needed better protection in place for these endemic and endangered dolphins.
Send your postcard of support
Click the link and fill in your details and we will send a handwritten postcard on your behalf to the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.