NZ's first jet ski dolphin tour proposed in Christchurch

Ryan Boswell
Source: 1News

A Christchurch adventure company is proposing to run dolphin tours from what are normally fast-paced jet skis.

Jet Junkies has applied for a marine mammal viewing permit from the Department of Conservation, which is currently up for public consultation.

If successful, it would allow the company to operate dolphin tours on Lyttelton Harbour using jet skis.

Hector’s dolphins live in and around the area and are the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin.

The company’s chief executive, Kevin Scovell, told 1News that it would be the first time that dolphin tours would be run using jet skis in New Zealand.

“We just want to become ambassadors, basically, out on the water for the marine life. It's not about the speed of the trip, it's about purely educational and viewing pleasure,” Scovell said.

Jet Junkies has been offering jetpack and jet ski rides around the harbour for the last two years.

“We come across marine life all the time, so we thought we'd do the right thing and apply for a marine mammal viewing permit. When we do find them, at the moment, it's an accidental discovery so we have protocols in place to follow,” Scovell said.

Naval Point Club manager Richard Matterson said Jet Junkies were responsible, and providing a safe activity for visitors, unlike some recreational users.

“Unlike the rest of the boats that are out, [where] there are no licensing requirements or no training requirements at all; we know that Jet Junkies are going to have to be very, very strict and stringent in what they do,” said Matterson.

Professor Liz Slooten of the University of Otago, who has been studying the dolphins for decades, said while she’s never seen any injured or killed by jet skis, she’s worried about their unpredictability.

“It just seems such an unlikely vehicle to use, or vessel to use, for dolphin watching.”

She wants the Department of Conservation (DOC) to look at the impact of all human activities on the dolphins before granting consent, including fishing, aquaculture, port development and the dredging of the port.

“The Hector’s dolphins are quite small and they really like boats that go slow and nice and predictable and then they'll come and barrel ride and be easy to get close to,” Slooten said.

When travelling at sea within 300m of marine mammals, vessels must go no faster than ‘idle or no wake speed’. DOC rules also state boat users must approach from a direction that is parallel and slightly to the rear, and not to obstruct the animals' path.

Kevin Scovell said he will stick to the rules and put dolphin safety first.

“It's only a viewing pleasure tour, so there’s no speed, there’s no adrenaline, there’s no going out to the heads”.