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Tourist businesses fund whale & dolphin research

Whale and dolphin watching tourist operators in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park (HGMP) have funded $100,000 of research into the marine mammals that provide their livelihood.

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari and Dolphin Planet have concessions from the Department of Conservation (DOC) for their whale and dolphin watching operations in the gulf.

DOC is responsible for protecting marine mammals living around New Zealand’s coast.

The concessions require these businesses to operate in a way that minimises disruption to whales and dolphins living in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

The concessions also require operators to contribute to the Hauraki Gulf Cetacean Fund which funds research focusing on the impact of tourist operations on whales and dolphins in the gulf.

DOC manages the fund and has awarded a total of $100,800 from the fund to three research projects.

“Aucklanders are fortunate to have a variety of whales, dolphins and other cetacean species in our big blue back yard, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park,” says DOC’s Acting Auckland Mainland Operations Manager Kat Lane.

“This research will increase our understanding of these marine mammals and the impact human activities may have on them.”

“It will help us protect these taonga and enable us to enjoy having these wonderful animals as our neighbours,” says Kat Lane.

$65,000 has been awarded to Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine and Dr Craig Radford at the University of Auckland.

They will study the effect vessels in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park have on whale and dolphin feeding behaviour. And the effect vessels have on fish the whales and dolphins eat, such as pilchards and anchovies.

$30,000 has been awarded for research by the University of Auckland, University of Victoria in Canada and Styles Group Underwater Acoustics in Auckland. This research is led by Dr Matt Pine.

They are studying potential impact of tourism operations on the acoustic wellbeing of whales and dolphins in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

$5800 has been awarded to Dr Karen Stockin of Massey University. She’s conducting a review of marine mammal research in the gulf.

More information about the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

• The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park covers 1.2 million hectares has five marine reserves and 47 pest-free islands.
• The gulf is visited by at least 25 species of marine mammal, which is nearly a third of all marine mammals worldwide.
• Whales seen in the Hauraki Gulf include blue, pilot, sei, minke and Bryde’s whale
• There are about 70 Bryde’s whales living in an area extending from the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park in the south to Parengarenga Harbour in the Far North.
• Common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and orca are the most frequently seen dolphins in the gulf and Waitematā Harbour.
• All dolphins, whales and seals are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. Anyone charged with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a marine mammal faces a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment or a fine to maximum of $250,000.

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