Welcome to Banks Peninsula, home of The Hector’s dolphins and eco-tourism pioneers Black Cat Cruises

Tag Archives: department of conservation

Department of Conservation Business Spotlight

 

Business Spotlight

A huge thank you to the Department of Conservation for taking the time to visit and speak with us as part of their Business Spotlight series. The series aims to highlight how businesses can get involved in the conversation, and play a part by taking action.

Tiaki Promise

Kaitiakitanga of New Zealand’s native dolphin, the Hector’s dolphin is simply a natural part of who we are.
Being the world’s smallest and rarest oceanic dolphin, only found around the shores of the South Island, it has been our role, for almost 40 years as an eco-tourism operator, to help protect and preserve both their space and place, and their survival.

Useful Links

If you would like to discover a little more about how we continue to support the Hector’s dolphins you can do this here
Discover how business can help nature on the DOC website here

CELEBRATING SEAWEEK

seaweek akaroa

seaweek akaroa

What is Seaweek and why do we celebrate it?

How much do you know about the seas surrounding our little Island?

Are you aware of just how important the ocean is to us humans, no matter where you live?

Whether you know very little or a lot, you’ll learn something valuable through the NZ Association for Environmental Education’ Seaweek event. 

Every year, in the lead-up to Sea week, Black Cat Cruises pro-actively contribute to the cause in a variety of ways. Over the years we’ve hosted scientific nature cruises with leading marine mammal experts from the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust, offered special discounts to encourage more people out on the water, and even had a kids song written about the Hector’s Dolphins. We aim to reach all ages and inspire a love and promote a connection to the oceans that surround us. If we can teach just one person something about our ocean and the life within it, and convince them to take action in some way, we’ve achieved something worthwhile. That’s what we aim to do every day with our nature cruises and swimming with dolphins experiences, and that’s what we hope to do with this blog. 

 

Ocean Birds

Aotearoa is the seabird capital of the world. Of the 360 seabird species found worldwide, 86 breed in New Zealand, including 38 which breed nowhere else. 

Akaroa is home to many, such as the: variable oystercatcher with their distinctive long orange beaks. We often encounter them on our cruises, looking rather mischievous!

white fronted tern akaroa birdlife

The white-fronted tern is noble and elegant, with a black cap and forked tail. These photogenic birds’ population has declined massively over the last 40 years and are now considered endangered!

The fluttering shearwater makes a distinctive noise with their wings; it’s just as likely you’ll hear them before you see them coming! Even more so because they often move in large flocks, ranging to over a thousand, feeding on fish or krill at the ocean’s surface. 

And who could forget the world’s rarest penguin, the Yellow-eyed penguin? Only found in New Zealand, there are only 4000 yellow-eyed penguins left in the wild! Reaching a weight of 8.5kgs and height of 79cms, they’re about the size of a one-year-old child!

 

Ocean fish 

There are tons of fish in Akaroa Harbour. Fish keep the ocean birds’ and mammals’ bellies full, making them an essential part of the ecosystem. Professional and recreational fishers need to know the areas where they can fish, how they can fish, and which should be kept or thrown back into the ocean.

The Ministry for Primary Industries provides useful guidelines like this, which need to be referred to. 

Spiny Dogfish are a type of small shark commonly found around New Zealand, including Akaroa Harbour. They also taste quite nice and are sold by fishers in Akaroa. The fillet is white with a mild, sweet flavour. The dogfish is a small but mighty predator, not afraid to take a jab at a passing fish. 

Ever heard of a Red Gurnard? No? I hadn’t either, but here it is. It’s unsurprisingly quite red. Their redness has a use, they can startle predators by flashing their fins at them. They are known to grunt when caught by fishers hence ‘Gurnard’ which is old French for ‘grunter’.

Native to New Zealand waters are the Blue Moki.  They can live for up to 30 years and grow up to 10 kg. Blue Moki are caught year-round off the east coast, by trawl and set nets. They feed on a variety of crabs, shellfish, and worms, which they suck from the sandy or muddy seafloor.

akaroa wildlife

There’s also the distinct looking barracouta. Not only do they attack fishers and break lines, but they also contain many small bones and are embedded with long white parasitic worms. 

If you’ve ever been to the Akaroa Fish n chip shop, you’ve surely heard of blue cod. Only found in New Zealand waters. Blue cod are easy to approach for divers, however, they are known to nip fingers and even ears. They can change sex from female to male and males are generally larger than females.

 

Ocean Mammals 

 Finally of course, we have the animals most closely related to us humans; the different mammals that call Akaroa their home.

These warm-blooded creatures are different from birds because they produce live-offspring, as opposed to laying eggs. 

 

The New Zealand fur seals are often found on our Black Cat nature cruise chilling on the rocks. They dive deeper and longer than any other fur seal. Female fur seals are known to (occasionally) dive deeper than 238 m, and for as long as 11 minutes. Males fight for territory and the ability to mate the females of the area. Their young are called “pups” which sounds an awful lot like “puppies” in case you needed any more proof that seals are the ‘dogs of the sea’. Check out this DOC article for more on fur seals, including a sound clip of fur seals during mating season. 

akaroa dolphin and seal wildlifeAnd of course, this wouldn’t be a Black Cat Cruises blog without talking about the number one natural attraction of Akaroa- The Hectors Dolphins. The world’s smallest and rarest dolphins, only found in New Zealand. Their calves are the size of a rugby ball, and we take care to leave these young families alone as they have lots of important work to do. The Hectors dolphins are iconic for their rounded “mickey mouse” fins. They are curious and playful creatures when they’re not busy hunting in pods for squid, fish, and crustaceans. The Hector’s Dolphin populations declined hugely following the human occupation of New Zealand. And though things are getting better, more needs to be done. 

 

Playing Our Part

Not only is it fascinating to learn about the ocean’s habitats, characteristics, and inhabitants, it is also extremely important. The vast majority of our oceans are open for exploitation by fishing, mining, oil, and gas companies. Seabird and marine mammal by-catch, habitat destruction, and overfishing are destroying our coasts. Notice I referred to the ocean and coasts of New Zealand as “ours”. It is part of humanity’s vanity to assume the environment we live in is owned by us. This thinking runs so deep it’s​​ become a natural part of our language.

It is time we switch courses and help repair the damage we’ve caused. Organisations like Forest and Bird dedicate themselves to improving the situation and have played a part in advocating for full camera surveillance of all fishing boats operating on our coasts. This has just recently been proposed by the MPI. Check out their website, scroll to the bottom, and see all the ways you can help (there’s plenty to choose from). 

 

Free Black Cat Cruises Seaweek Event

music with michal

Hector's dolphin book
Hector’s dolphin Kiwi of The Sea Songbook for Kids

Last Year for Sea Week, we worked with local children’s music legend Music With Michal to write a song about Hector’s dolphins. A way to inspire the future generation of kiwi’s, and teach them about how rare, special and important they are. We launched them over a series of sold out Seaweek themed ‘Music with Michal’ cruises on board the Canterbury Cat.

We planned to repeat the same again this year, however with the current rise in Omicron across New Zealand we’ve opted for the safety of the families wishing to attend and moved the our event to a one off free live streamed concert. We are also excited to announce we have turned the song into it’s very own book!

The book is available to purchase online now and we are donating $2 from every book sold to the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust. BUT IT HERE

Wednesday 9th March. 9.30am – 10am 

It’s a great way to get kids talking, singing and excited about the environment. Register to attend via this link.

 

Seaweek Merchandise

seaweek t-shirtSeaweek is always a great event, and each year they explore a cool theme. Last year was “Connecting with our Seas; Toi Moana Toi Tangata – highlighting the diverse connections and interactions we have with the sea.” They sell some pretty cool merchandise, 100% of which will go to supporting their cause. It’s a great way to help, and raise further awareness which is what sea week is all about! Check it out on this link here. While you’re there, check out the cool events they’ve got lined up on the main page!

 

 

 

 

Lastly, we recommend following these awesome organisations to keep up-to-date with conservational efforts:

 

#seaweek #akaroa #akaroawildlife #hectorsdolphins #conservation #celebratingourseas #nzaeeseaweek

 

by Josh Bingham

April School Holiday Fun – Quail Island’s Big Beautiful Bird Trail

april school holiday activity for kids

School holiday fun is here on Quail Island!

If you are looking for a school holiday activity in Christchurch then look no further….
Best of all adults cruise at kids prices throughout the April school holidays ($15 return per person).
So what’s it all about?
Well, six native New Zealand birds are hiding around Quail Island.
These Big Beautiful Birds have been painted in watercolour by a local Lyttelton artist. Each piece of art has been blown up and printed on very large boards, so they look amazing and will be hard to miss. You will also be given a map to help you locate all of the birds. Each bird is accompanied by some facts to help teach our younger generation about our native wildlife.
So we invite you to come and explore Quail island and find them all, whilst learning about each bird.
Complete our fun fact sheet and we’ll reward you with surprise treats on your boat ride back to Lyttelton.
A boat ride, fresh air, education, exercise, nature and fun all rolled into one!
The April school holiday starts on Saturday April 17th and goes through to Sunday May 2nd, 2021
Boat departs twice daily from B Jetty in Lyttleton harbour.
Departures:
10.15am and 12.15pm
Return:
12.30pm and 3.30pm
Online booking is recommended which you can do right here

Celebrate Seaweek 2020

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.

DATES:

29 February 2020
7 March 2020
8 March 2020

TIME:

1:30PM – 3:00PM

TICKETS:

Adults: $30.00
Children (5-15 years): $20.00
Children under 5: FREE

Conservation Week 2019

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.

Hector’s Dolphin

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).

Come along with your family and discover the natural wonders of Akaroa Habour aboard our award-winning 2-hour Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise.

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.

Akaroa Harbour Nature Kids

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!

TO BOOK:

Online: www.blackcat.co.nz using promo code NATURE
Phone: 0800 436 574
Email: akaroa@blackcat.co.nz

Please quote promo code: NATURE

Finalists in the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards

We are so excited to share that we are finalists in the 2019 New Zealand Tourism Awards – (Department of Conservation Conservation Award).

Finalist’s in the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards

An amazing honour to be alongside the other fantastic finalists in our category – Auckland Whale & Dolphin SafariAuckland Zoo,Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.

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.

Full press release CLICK HERE

Vote for Black Cat Cruises for the Peoples Choice Award!

As part of being a finalist, there is also a Peoples Choice Award up for grabs and this is YOUR chance to vote for your favourite NZ tourism experience.

We would love it if you chose us! Please click the link below and vote for Black Cat Cruises as your People’s Choice!

Plus, as a bonus for voting you’ll be in for a chance to WIN an Air New Zealand Mystery Break™ including:

✈️ Return airfares to a New Zealand mystery destination
? Two nights twin share accommodation
? Transfer to & from airport to destination

Voting closes 20 September!

Hector’s Dolphin Threat Management Plan – What You Need to Know

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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 dolphintmp@doc.govt.nz. outlining your concerns about the situation above.

  1. A plan calling for one dead Hector’s dolphin a week is not acceptable. 
  2. 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.
  3. Expand the netting ban to include flounder nets in the upper harbours from April to Sept. 
  4. Support option 3 of the plan around Canterbury BUT with further extensions out to 100m in depth. 
  5. 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 dolphintmp@doc.govt.nz 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. 

Swim for Hector’s

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!

Video captured by: Michael Roberts
The swim went from Tikao Bay accross to Akaroa Main Beach

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.

Hector’s dolphins are one of the world’s rarest dolphin species

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. 

Key Messages:

  • 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.

Send a postcard to the Prime Minister