Authorities have been forced to step in to protect a group of bottlenose dolphins after figures revealed a tragic toll.
New Zealand has made the drastic decision to shut down a popular swimming with dolphins attraction over concerns tourists are “loving” the animals “too much”.
The Bay of Islands off the west coast on the North Island has been a popular place for visitors to swim with bottleneck dolphins.
But New Zealand’s Department of Conservation says the region has suffered a 66 per cent decline in their bottlenose dolphin population since 1990, and a 75 per cent calf mortality rate, which is the highest internationally.
Now, only 19 bottlenose dolphins are regularly visiting the area.
On the back of these worrying numbers, environmental authorities said they were shutting down all dolphin swimming operations for three years. They have also started restricting boat tours for dolphin watching to just morning and early afternoon sessions, and cutting those tours from 30 to 20 minutes.
“Research shows that interactions with the bottlenose dolphins is having a significant impact on the populations resting and feeding behaviour and that people are ‘loving the dolphins too much’,” a Department of Conservation (DoC) spokesperson said in a statement.
“There are no specific plans to restrict the activity anywhere else, but if research and evidence indicated, then we would consider it.
The DoC is looking into the possibility of creating a mammal sanctuary in the Bay of Islands, Stuff.co.nz reported.
A DoC spokeswoman said interaction with boats was disruptive to the dolphins.
“It means they spend far less time feeding, nursing their young and sleeping,” the spokeswoman said, according to Stuff.co.nz.
“We know people love dolphins. People are simply loving them too much.”
Hawaii has also considered plans to ban swimming with dolphins over concerns for the rare spinner dolphin population and blame tourists for interrupting their mating patterns, the New York Post reported.
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