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Orca in the estuary

thumbnail  7501996 (1)-824BY JULIA WADE

Large wild creatures frolicking along the coastline is always a sight set to thrill, and over the last few weeks several reports of beautiful marine mammals gracing Mangawhai’s waters have been posted on local social media.

One of the most recent sightings was on the afternoon of November 13, where around ten orca, including three calves, were spotted hunting stingray as they traversed Mangawhai’s Harbour as far as Moir’s Point.

However some locals were also concerned that the creatures showed signs of stress as some boaties, in their excitement, got a bit too close for comfort for the massive sea adventures, with one orca slapping her tail, a classic signal for people to ‘back off’. Other warning behaviours are breaching, tail fluke swipes, fin slaps and thrashing.

Project Jonah NZ general manager Daren Grover says it would have been an incredible experience for the locals to watch the whales close to the shoreline, however any interaction, ‘should be on the whales and dolphins terms’.

“So don’t approach them and don’t block them, especially if there are calves in the pod,” he says. “If you’re in a boat or on a jet ski and travelling, maintain your course and speed, give no sudden hard direction or speed changes, and if you do approach a pod, always come from behind, never cross their path of direction.”

 Interested in becoming a Project Jonah trained Marine Mammal Medic? Training courses for 2021 will be held in Ruakaka on March 21, and Auckland April 10 and 11. Visit projectjonah.org.nz for more details.

Marine mammal rules
  • Marine mammals are protected by the ‘Marine Mammal Protection Regulations 1992’ and people may face severe penalties for any offences committed under this Act. Following is a summary of the Act:
  • Do not disturb, harass or make loud noises near marine mammals.
  • Contact should be ceased should marine mammals show any signs of becoming disturbed or alarmed.
  • Do not feed or throw any rubbish near marine mammals.
  • Avoid sudden or repeated changes in speed or direction of any vessel or aircraft near a marine mammal.
  • There should be no more than three vessels and/or aircraft within 300 metres of any marine mammal.
  • Ensure that you travel no faster than idle or ‘no wake’ speed within 300 metres of any marine mammal.
  • Approach whales and dolphins from behind and to the side.
  • Do not circle them, obstruct their path or cut through any group.
  • Keep at least 50 metres from whales or 200 metres from any large whale mother and calf or calves.
  • Swimming with whales is not permitted.
  • You may swim with seals and dolphins but not with dolphin pods with very young calves.
  • Avoid approaching closer than 20 metres to seals and sea lions hauled out on shore.
  • Idle slowly away. Speed may be gradually increased to out-distance dolphins and should not exceed 10 knots within 300 metres of any dolphin.
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