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Help stop the world’s rarest dolphins from dying in fishing nets

hectors dolphin

Hector’s Dolphins SOS….

We can never know how many of the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin’s die in fishing nets every year. Many reports are under-estimated and require self reporting by fishermen.

Even so, some organisations claim up to 150 Hector’s dolphins are killed in nets each year.

Fair to say, the Hector’s and Maui dolphins are still in need of urgent help.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has recently asked the public to help them decide how Hector’s dolphins can be further protected from fishing nets around the South Island. They’ve outlined 4 options, and in this blog we will explain why option 4 is the best for saving lives, whilst also asking for additional measures to be added. 

 

Anyone, including you, can submit which option they support and why. It is due by 6 December 2021 and can be submitted via email dolphinTMP@mpi.govt.nz or by this survey.

 

If you want more information on the four options, you can read the Ministry for Primary Industries 50 page report, or watch this video (starts at 5.15) but we’ve summarised it below.

We’ve been advocating for additional protection for the dolphins for some time. Some new fishing restrictions were brought in last year, but they were far from perfect. You can read more about our take on the 2020 protections here. 

In particular, we were very concerned that the plan opened up a ‘death zone’ off Akaroa Harbour. As of now, fishers can use nets outside of Akaroa Harbour. And is some months inside the harbour too.

 

The Options from Ministry for Primary Industries

Option 1:

Do nothing. The Ministry themselves accept this is not an option.

Option 2:

A plan to ‘work together’. Fishers will try to stop catching dolphins, and when they do, they must report it. This involves the use of monitoring cameras on fishers’ boats. If they keep catching dolphins, the ministry will give advice and maybe suggest some extra preventative measures. The issue here is that there are no enforced obligations to change fishing habits. It might take years for real change to take place. In the meantime, dolphins will continue to die. It’s like choosing not to install fire alarms in your first home. Then, only after it burns down, do you decide it’s a good time to take some preventative measures. It’s too little, too late.

Option 3:

Will look at making some changes to trawl fishing in certain areas of the South Island. Namely, reducing the speed of boats with nets attached (to 4kph), and making the net opening smaller (1M height). These measures, as admitted by the report itself, may not even make a difference. The success of these supposed ‘preventive’ measures are all based on seven anecdotes from fishers. This is an extremely small sample of evidence, which also has no scientific backing. We’d rather not put our faith in a maybe. 

Not only this, but option 3 keeps the death zone right outside of Akaroa harbour open. Look at the maps below. The yellow areas on the left map show the current areas where trawl fishing is banned. The map on the right shows orange areas where extra restrictions will be imposed, but the gap between the orange creates another death zone. Given what we’ve said about the doubt we have of these restrictions, this option has few merits overall.

hectors dolphin

Option 4:

Increases the areas which ban set nets, as seen in the figure below. This means larger areas where dolphins are safe from set-nets, which can make an immediate difference to the number of dolphins caught. The extended areas can be seen in the dark blue areas highlighted in the map below. This is good news and one which Black Cat  Cruises and the Ministry for Primary Industries support. While it’s the best option of the four, it is still lacking. For a start, it makes no changes to trawl-net fishing, which is just as dangerous. Trawl-fishers will continue operating right outside of Akaroa harbour.

akaroa dolphin map

What we’re going to ask for on top of Option 4

All four options are written on the basis that a certain amount of ‘by catch’ is acceptable to New Zealanders. We don’t think that’s right. The plan calls for a goal to catch/kill around 33 dolphins a year on the East Coast of the South Island each year. It’s claimed that’s a sustainable goal and it will maintain the population of dolphins to 80% of historic levels. We want to stop the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of dolphins, and in doing so make the population soar back to 100% of historic levels.

akaroa hectors dolphins

If we’re serious about making a real positive impact on the dolphins, there should have been an additional option….

The International Union for conservation of nature (ICUN) made a clear recommendation years ago. They called for consistent protection throughout NZ waters less than 100 m deep; a ban to set and trawl net fishing in these areas. The map below shows what they have in mind, with red being areas that can be net-fished commercially, and green being areas where net fishing is banned.

At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September 2021, the Director General said that the vast majority of IUCN Resolutions have been acted on. Only 8% of the Resolutions are being ignored by the relevant countries. Unfortunately, New Zealand is part of this group of 8%. This is an embarrassment.

We will ask for the ICUN’s option to be added to the proposed list, as the other options do not make enough of a difference. Also, the plan is completely silent on the ability to be able to set nets in 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, and we will ask for these areas to be specifically banned to all net-fishing.

 

Conclusion

Whilst we appreciate the ability to engage further on dolphin protection, the options (with the exception of closing the death zone) won’t have much impact on dolphin protection.

We have chosen to focus this blog post primarily on the areas surrounding Banks Peninsula. This is because it’s the area directly relevant to Black Cat Cruises, and where we have the most experience with the current issues of ‘bycatching’. Continue to follow our social media for a blog post in the future which addresses bycatching nation-wide.

We need a future-focused conservation option. We need more significant protection. We need the population of Hector’s Dolphins to soar above the endangered level. We need the option to implement full protection out to 100m in depth (where Hector’s Dolphins live).

 

What would we like you to do now?

If you’d like to consult on the plan, please go ahead. Add your voice to the conversation. Black Cat Cruises will be supporting option 4, and asking for additional protection in line with the IUCN option – limiting nets throughout NZ waters less than 100 m deep.

We understand that fishers need to catch fish. However, putting bans in these small areas, which are already so close to the shore, will keep our beautiful native dolphin species alive.

CLICK HERE TO HAVE YOUR SAY 

World Animal Day – Celebrating and Protecting Hector’s Dolphins

akaroa dolphin

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’.

akaroa dolphin
Akaroa hector’s dolphin

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.

 

Hector’s Dolphin Research champions

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.

Hector’s Dolphin Education

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.

Watch this video for more info….

Protect Hector’s Dolphins

akaroa hectors dolphins adopt a dolphinYou 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

There are also some great ways to help support both Hector’s and Maui dolphins on the Department of Conservation’s website. You can read more about it here  

 

Encounter Hector’s Dolphins in Akaroa 

hectors dolphinsOne 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

 

#worldanimalday #hectorsdolphin #wildandfree #akaroa

 

 

School Holiday Fun! Quail Island Treasure Hunt, Kids Cruise Free in Akaroa and Ripapa Island

school holiday Christchurch activity

It’s all go these school holidays in Christchurch and Akaroa with Black Cat Cruises.

school holiday Christchurch activityThe school holidays kick off this Saturday, October 2nd and run until Sunday October 17th in Christchurch and we know just how important it is to find a fun and engaging activity that the whole family can enjoy. Choose from our daring pirate and treasure hunt happening daily on Quail Island, or jump in the car and head over the hill to Akaroa for a two hour nature cruise as kids cruise free during the holidays….and if that wasn’t enough we have also put on 3 limited space trips to Ripapa Island happening every Saturday.

Quail Island Treasure Hunt – Adults go at kids prices

Come and find the hidden pirates on Quail Island and we’ll reward you with treasure. Limited time only for the October school holidays. Choose from a morning, afternoon or full day trip when booking Quail Island.

Adults cost just $15 return – the same price as a child.

BOOK USING CODE: PIRATES21 

 

Kids Cruise Free in Akaroa

school holiday deal christchurch

Did you know 2 kids cruise for free (saving $80) in Akaroa in the October school holidays. Explore Akaroa harbour and discover majestic volcanic cliffs along with native wildlife such as the Hector’s dolphins and New Zealand fur seal. The cruise lasts for two hours and includes complimentary tea and coffee for mum, dad and the grandparents…along with a kids activity book on request for the little ones. There are two viewing platforms and a large inside cabin with a bar, seating and bathroom. We also offer a Hector’s dolphin guarantee. Did you know Hector’s dolphins are the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin…and only found here in New Zealand. The lucky thing for us is that Banks Peninsula is the home of the Hector’s and we get to see them every single day on 98% of our cruises which allows us to take you out again for free if you don’t see them 🙂

BOOK USING CODE: OCTHOLS21

Valid on our Akaroa Nature Cruise when accompanied by 1 adult paying full price of $95.

Ripapa Island

The little island with the big history is back for a limited time. Over the next 3 Saturdays once you’ve booked online you can jump on our boat in Lyttelton and cruise over to Ripapa Island for a fascinating morning of discovery. Check out the video below and if you haven’t yet been we highly recommend you take the opportunity to cruise over.

Ripapa Island

And remember under 5’s cruise and travel for free with us all year round!

We do recommend advance booking as spaces have been reduced to just 50 passengers per trip for Quail Island and our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise.

You can book any of these experiences directly on our booking page here

Please note that these experiences will only go ahead in Covid alert level 1 or  2. At the time of posting we are currently in Level 2 which means our Quail Island and Akaroa experiences are limited to 50 pax per trip.