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Whale and dolphin research championed globally

Tuesday May 9, 2017



Auckland's only daily whale and dolphin eco-tourism tour operator is conducting valuable research on rare marine mammals in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, according to a well-known international science community.

The World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) say Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari are leading the way with their onboard research initiatives and customer-focused conservation.

"I've been visiting and advising whale and dolphin watch operators for 20 years now and I genuinely think that Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari is among the most responsible operators I have ever travelled with," says WCA CEO Dylan Walker.

"Two scientists joined us on our tour, collecting important long-term data which will contribute to conservation efforts. But what makes Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari so special is that the guides did a fantastic job of explaining the results of previous onboard studies so that it was clear to customers that they were contributing to something really important."

The WCA works to protect whales and dolphins globally by sharing research, knowledge and information amongst whale and dolphin researchers and marine mammal specialists around the world.

The family business - which operates boat trips daily on their hi-tech research vessel from the Viaduct Harbour - had their membership accepted last month.

"It's about being aware of exactly what we've got on our doorstep," says Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari General Manager Brad Kirner. "The Marine Park is one of the most abundant, diverse, amazing resources in the world."

The Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari's crew is made up of scientists and researchers, committed to the conservation of the rare marine mammals and birds that occupy the waters right next to New Zealand's largest city.

Their research has discovered Auckland to be home to the only non-migratory group of Bryde's whales in the world. Yet until recently, so little was known about the Bryde's whale and they had a "data deficient" status, internationally.

"The Bryde's whale now has critical and endangered status," says Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari skipper and whale expert Andy Light. "That stands out as being important as most people don't know there are whales in Auckland."

Meanwhile, research conducted by the team was instrumental in the Ports Of Auckland deciding on a voluntary reduction in ship speed to stop this breed of whales from being killed.

"These whales are extremely rare and special and we need to protect that. The truth is we don't know that much about the Bryde's whale," says Mr Kirner. "We're still learning about them every day."

The research and conservation measures that saw the company gain their WCA membership have earned high praise from Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED).

"We are proud of the initiatives undertaken by this business to protect Auckland's whales and dolphins and future-proof the health of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park," says ATEED Head of Tourism, Jason Hill.

Mr Kirner says ATEED's support has been instrumental in helping the eco-tourism business grow to the point where it has received recognition on the world stage.

The WCA membership is also a key step towards the company's vision of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park one day becoming a globally recognised Whale Heritage Site.

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari Background

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari is a family-run business that started in 2000. It is dedicated to helping people discover Auckland's whales, dolphins, birds and island scenery while protecting habitat and species for future generations. The research conducted on board the boat by scientists and marine researchers is used to help assist in the preservation and conservation of key species within Auckland's Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

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