Kaikōura’s Commitment to Sustainability

The New Zealand Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE) is a national, non-profit organisation that supports and encourages environmental sustainability in Aotearoa through its annual flagship event, Seaweek. This year, Seaweek is taking place over Saturday 2nd – Sunday 10th March 2019, and Whale Watch Kaikōura are excited to get amongst this brilliant initiative! The theme this year is “Tiakina o Tātou Mōana – Care for our Seas”.  

Whale Watch is committed to providing a quality whale watching experience while carefully managing the use of a rare natural resource. We are visitors to the world of the whales and respect it as such at all times.

For a bit of background on Whale Watch’s commitment to sustainability, here are a few things we’re already involved with:

  • We are Qualmark Accredited GOLD which is audited each year in regards to our commitment to sustainable tourism business practices. 
  • We recently signed up to the new NZ Tourism Sustainability Commitment to help create a world-leading and truly sustainable tourism industry by adopting 14 commitments that covers economic, visitor, host community and environmental sustainability.
  • You can check out our full Conservation Policy over on our website along with the two challenges we pose to all of our customers, to travel responsibly and to consider the plastic footprint you leave behind.
  • We are proud to be a supporter of the Tiaki Promise, to act as a guardian, protecting and preserving New Zealand. 

Bull Orca2

In line with the theme of this year’s Seaweek, we endeavour to protect our oceans from waste and make them a safer and healthier place to live for the marine life that reside in them. For these reasons, we abide by the Marine Mammal Protection Regulations 1992 which are governed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation to minimise any potential impact our interactions may have on the marine mammals after all, we have the most to lose if we do not protect these magnificent creatures. These regulations prescribe approach and departure speeds, approach and departure directions, approach speed and the number of permitted crafts (vessels, planes, helicopters) at any one time to name a few of the protective measures in place.

Whale watching in Kaikoura, New Zealand

There’s also a number of things we do on a day-to-day basis around our offices and on our vessels that assist in creating less pollution and supports our sustainable philosophy. The entire fleet of Whale Watch vessels are purposely designed for whale watching. Our modern catamarans are powered by inboard diesel engines and equipped with Hamilton propulsion units that minimises underwater noise to prevent noise pollution and to protect the Sperm whales who primarily use sound as a form of navigation. All on-board toilets are self-contained and never allowed to pollute the sea. Back at our offices, we minimise the use of plastic bags by only offering customers paper bags at our Retail Store and also having a strict recycling system in place.

We’re proud of our many awards we have received that recognise our commitment to the preservation of the environment, some of which include Australasian Responsible Tourism Award (2017) and Most Sustainable Eco-Tourism Company - New Zealand (2017).

In New Zealand, we have strict marine mammal protection rules that all operators must adhere to, these are regulated by the Department of Conservation. This is to ensure the safety of animals and the protection of their environment. As operators on Kaikōura’s waters, there is a mandatory rest period for viewing and swimming with the Dusky dolphins between 1130AM – 130PM, enforced each day during the busy months of November – March. This was introduced by the Department of Conservation, to give dolphins a break from tourist activity during their main resting time.

Dusky Dolphins Copyright Chris Dearden

There is a significant amount of robust research undertaken by the Department of Conservation on the potential impact of commercial tourism interactions with whales, dolphins and seals in Kaikōura which informs the sustainable management of these species and commercial interactions with them, the rest period noted above was a direct result of such research.

And it’s not just Whale Watch who are committed to protecting our oceans and the precious marine life that live beneath, it’s the entire Kaikōura community! Kaikōura as a destination, including tourism operators, is a Sustainable Certified Community through the international Green Globe programme underpinned by Earthcheck Science. We were the first community in the Southern Hemisphere to achieve Earth Check’s Platinum Award and commit to a sustainable future.

Kaikoura in winter

Image Credit: Bare Kiwi

A self-imposed ban was placed on the Kaikoura Peninsula known as a rāhui (in Māori culture, a rāhui is a form of tapu restricting access to, or use of, an area or resource). First established in 2002, the rāhui prohibits the taking of all fisheries resources, including any species of fish, aquatic life or seaweed, from the Wakatu Quay area. Speaking of which, Kaikōura is full of sanctuaries specifically set up to protect our beloved marine life:

We encourage everyone to help care for our seas and foster a sustainable future, whether that be from something as small as replacing your plastic shopping bags with reusable canvas bags or getting involved in your local beach clean-up. Take pride in New Zealand’s beautiful natural environment and make sustainability a priority for you, your business or your community this year.

Seal eating an octopus in Kaikoura, New Zealand


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