Tourists can no longer swim with dolphins in New Zealand

Sep 8, 2019

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Heads up if you’re visiting New Zealand anytime soon: It’s now illegal to swim with the wild bottlenose dolphins in the Bay of Islands.

The government recently banned tourists from swimming with dolphins in this area near the North Island, citing the negative impact of human interaction.

According to a statement released on 29 August by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, “Research shows interaction with bottlenose dolphins is having a significant impact on the population’s resting and feeding behavior”, and that people are “loving the dolphins too much”.

In fact, the local population at the Bay of Islands has fallen by a whopping 66% since 1999, leaving behind a core group of only 19 dolphins. Calves have a 75% mortality rate, too; it’s the highest in New Zealand. While some restrictions were already in place, the government opted to take more drastic measures.

Back in July, new permits for commercial operators that take tourists to visit the dolphins on a boat came into effect. The new regulations will reduce viewing and interaction time with the mammals, and the locations for encounters have also been limited. Only four permit-holders run out of the Bay of Islands, and another runs out of Tutukaka, a city about 80 miles south. Swimming with the dolphins is altogether banned.

As part of the permit, operators can only take tourists out to visit the dolphins in the morning or afternoon to give the dolphins time without any human interaction — and encounters with the bottlenose dolphins will be reduced to a total of 20 minutes per trip.

New Zealand is a gorgeous country with plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure, dolphins or no dolphins. One of the most popular attractions is the Waitomo Caves, a maze of underground rivers and sinkholes filled with thousands of glowworms. In fact, this special species only exists in New Zealand, about 125 miles away from Auckland.

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