Every year Black Cat Cruises join in with the national celebration of Seaweek.
Seaweek is an opportunity to celebrate connecting with our seas….and what better way than instilling that connection with our youngest generation from the very start? So read on and discover the link to our free live concert…and our brand new book dedicated to non other than the wee Hector’s Dolphins.
ITS ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC…
You may or may not know that last year we worked with local legend Music With Michal – a fantastic performer who writes and sings fun and (very) catchy tunes for little kids. Michal not only performed some Seaweek themed concerts on our boat, but we also asked her to write a wonderful song dedicated to the Hector’s Dolphins. It was soooo good we even made a wee music video.
Thanks to Michal and her super talented friend illustrator Andy Knopp the song has been turned into a fantastic children’s book which is now available for pre-order.
we are hosting a Live from Lyttelton free & streamed concert with Music With Michal.
JOIN THE SEAWEEK LIVE STREAM ON WEDNESDAY MARCH 9TH STARTING AT 9.30AM UNTIL 10AM WITH THIS LINK
This wonderful new book is available on the Black Cat website and priced at $22.
$2 from every book printed goes to the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust. So in turn we are not only offering education but we are able to further support scientific research and protection for New Zealand’s native and endangered dolphin, the Hector’s Dolphin.
KIWI OF THE SEA – HECTOR’S DOLPHIN
If you’d like to check out the Hector’s Dolphin song you can watch the video right here… Share this with your friends and family who have a little one 🙂
Another great way for little ones to get involved is by becoming a Protect Hector’s member. Membership includes a personalised certificate, Hector’s fact sheet and a plush Hector’s dolphin toy. Memberships are just $30 and available to purchase directly from our website here
Today, October 4th is World Animal Day. It has become an internationally celebrated day to support animal rights and welfare and we are celebrating the Hector’s dolphin.
How World Ocean Day Started
The very first World Animal Day took place nearly 100 years ago on March 24, 1925, in the Sport Palace in Berlin, Germany. More than 5,000 people attended the first event, however today the movement is now celebrated worldwide. It was originally founded by writer and animal activist Heinrich Zimmermann, author of Mensch und Hund (Man and Dog). In 1929 the date changed to October 4. The reason was quite simple and nothing fancy…the Sport Palace in Berlin simply wasn’t available that day. And since then October 4th has been known as World Ocean Day.
As champions of Hector’s dolphins here at Black Cat Cruises we’ve included some fun facts, industry info and an opportunity to encounter our very own ‘Kiwi Of The Sea’.
Hector’s Dolphin Facts
Hector’s dolphins are the worlds rarest and smallest oceanic dolphin. They are only found around the shallow coastal waters of the South Island in New Zealand making them a very rare and special native marinemammal.
The world wildlife organisation continues to recognise Hector’s dolphins as being endangered. They are very unique in their appearance, making them very easy to identify in the ocean. Not only are they very small (reach up to just 1.4m long), they also have a rounded black dorsal fin – just like a Mickey Mouse ear, along with a grey body and white tummy, similar in style to an Orca.
There is a also subspecies of the Hector’s dolphin known as the Maui’s dolphin this is critically endangered and estimated to have a population of only 55. The Maui dolphin is only found along the western shores of the North Island of New Zealand.
Given how rare this endemic species is we coined the phrase ‘Kiwi of the Sea’ quite a few years back…and even worked with a local musician to create a song to celebrate this magnificent marine mammal. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the first video below here in this blog – we warn you though, it’s rather catchy!
Hector’s dolphin Image by Mark Kitchingham.
Hector’s Dolphin – Tiaki Promise
Check out this fantastic video that explains just why Hector’s dolphins are so important and as guardians of our environment we need to ensure we are doing our part as a tourism operator to take care of them, and the place we operate.
A great source of information for Hector’s dolphins, latest research and how you can take action can be found from the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust. Led by Professor’s Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson as featured in our short documentary above, they are the world’s leading researchers and have spent a lifetime studying and campaigning for the endangered Hector’s dolphin.
They are rarer than kiwi’s and continue to be threatened by commercial and recreational fishing
You can TAKE ACTION or find out how you DONATE via their website here.
Did you know we run a Hector’s dolphin education programme?
This 9 week curriculum level 3 programme is completely free and available to all kiwi schools and students. Our aim is to raise awareness and inspire our next generation of young kiwi’s to care for their place and it’s precious ocean inhabitants. The more we can raise awareness of the Hector’s dolphins, and how important it is that our actions allow us to work and live respectfully and sustainably together, not just for our time but for future generations to come, the better the world will be for it.
You can join our Protect Hector’s Team! We set up a way to donate further funds back to the education and protection of the Hector’s dolphins.
Joining the Protect Hector’s team cost just $29 and in return, as well as helping to support the dolphins, you will receive a personalised certificate, plush Hector’s dolphin soft toy and a unique fact sheet. Read more about and join our team here
One of the best ways to encounter Hector’s dolphins is on one of our Akaroa Nature Cruise. We have some great specials on our website, including a fab family pass saving over $90. You’ll spend two hours cruising with us through the volcanic cliffs of majestic Akaroa harbour. Take in the sights, sounds and fascinating facts from significant Maori history, awe-inspiring geology, and wonderous wildlife. We often see a range of Hector’s dolphins, New Zealand Fur seals, coastal birds and more. Free tea and coffee are served from our downstairs bar area, and under 5’s cruise for free. We also offer a Hector’s Dolphin viewing guarantee with every booking, all year round. If you don’t see a dolphin (just a 2% chance) you can come and cruise with us again for free! Akaroa is also a wonderful place to explore on the stunning Banks Peninsula. It’s just a 90 minute drive from Christchurch so makes for a great day trip, weekend escape or longer.
We are an officially permitted by the Department of Conservation. As a SMART operator we adhere to DOC’s guidelines to operate in a safe, responsible and sustainable way with our marine environment and marine inhabitants.
SMART operators are leaders in sustainable marine mammal viewing through intensive staff training, responsible advertising, and education.
We are also the only cruise operator in Akaroa to be rated as Qualmark Gold, in addition we also hold the Covid Clean Approved accreditation from Qualmark. This means that our operations, training, staff and overall experience is of the highest standard. In addition we are current winners of the Tourism New Zealand award for Conservation and previous winners for Business Excellence.
Hector’s Dolphin Threat Management Plan
In order to ensure the long-term survival of these undique marine mammals the Ministry for Primary Industries have an active threat management plan in place. Black Cat Cruises were actively involved in advocating for better protection and support for the dolphins in 2019. You can see some of our work here. In 2020 there was a revision of the plan.You can view a PDF copy of the latest plan here
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.
By any measure Hector’s dolphins are a very special animal. Not only are they the smallest dolphin in the world, they are also the only one native to New Zealand. They’re as kiwi as the kiwi. If that is not enough, just like New Zealanders, they are very friendly, often investigating boats and people in the water.
So beloved are the dolphins, that an industry has sprung up to take people out to see or swim with them. Much of the Hector’s activity is based in the beautiful sheltered harbour of Akaroa. Black Cat Cruises was the first operator in 1985 and with other operators its estimated around 1 million people have seen Hector’s dolphins in the last 33 years. It’s an unrivalled and incredible setting to appreciate these very special dolphins and without exception people who see these dolphins form a connection.
It’s estimated the Akaroa Hector’s dolphin industry generates $24.5M* a year in direct and indirect revenue with $19.5M of that for Canterbury alone. This equates to 476 jobs (419 in Canterbury) The dolphins are the must do attraction in Akaroa and bring vital tourism dollars to the region. Nearly $100M in the last 4 years. Plus when asked how important was a dolphin tour to the decision to visit New Zealand, over 45% stated it was either important or very important; indicating the nature experience is a key factor in choosing to come to New Zealand.
But there’s a problem.
Set Net drownings
Hector’s are also 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 situation is so dire that in 2017 the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) named the two species in their threatened and endangered species list. You know it’s bad when the Americans are calling us out…
So what’s happening? The greatest threat to the Hector’s dolphins 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.
It’s not that New Zealand has done nothing. In 1988 the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal sanctuary was put in place which introduced some fishing restrictions especially around set netting in the area. At first glance this sounds like a great move but if you look at the details it provided only a modicum of protection and was far from the ‘sanctuary’ it pretended to be. In 2008 more protection was added by extending the boundaries.
However today there is the crazy situation where nets can still be set in and around Banks Peninsula in areas where the dolphins are known to range. Commercial set netting occurs from 4 miles out to sea and flounder nets can be set in Akaroa Harbour from April to October.
In recent years this led to the very sad (and totally unacceptable) situation in March 2018 where
Compounding the problem is that these dolphins only breed once every 2-3 years. So any death in the population is very hard to replace. Its thought the dolphin population is slowly reducing by 1% per year.
Solution – no more set nets
Right now the NZ government is formulating a plan for discussion. The ‘Threat Management Plan’ is due for release in 2019 and will take a scientific look at the current rate of kill and what, if anything, should be done about it.
To us it’s very clear that set netting no longer has a place for NZ fishing. We need better protection for Hectors around the South Island from all set netting – in the areas they range. Studies have shown whilst they are an ‘in-shore’ dolphin, they also range out to sea as much as 25 miles; though the range is more dependent on the depth of the water. Hector’s don’t tend to fish in water deeper than 100M.
We’re seeking to ensure the Banks Peninsula Sanctuary is a safe place for dolphins. We want to see an all year ban of set netting in the harbours, plus an extension of the commercial ban out to 100m depth (around 20 miles). In addition an extension of the sanctuary up and down the South Island. Only this will bring true haven status to the waters of Banks Peninsula.
Not only is that our responsibility as Kaitiakitanga or good guardians, but also it makes good economic sense. The dolphin industry supports an entire sector – literally hundreds of jobs (directly and indirectly) in Canterbury alone and millions of dollars. Commercial set netting accounts for just a handful around Banks Peninsula.
The benefits are clear – protection of one of our most special natives, protection of an entire industry and jobs and economic benefit for NZ.
This is an urgent problem with a simple solution.
Come on New Zealand, we can do better than this.
* GDP – value added spend on day of travel. M.E Consulting ‘Hector’s dolphin eco-tourism economic impact assessment. November 2018.