The NZ government has just launched the Kaikoura Whale Sanctuary on the east coast of the South Island. The area is biologically rich and includes 500m deep ocean canyons which are home to giant squid which is the preferred prey of sperm whales.
The sanctuary is nearly 5000 square kilometres in area and provides protection for the sperm, humpback, Southern right, blue, killer and other whales that frequent the area. It is particularly relevant for the local and well established sperm whale tourism industry which is now worth $134 million dollars a year.
Kaikoura is undoubtedly an excellent location for watching whales. The deep canyons are close to shore and the frequently sighted sperm whales make a spectacular sight seen against the area’s snow capped mountains.
WDC applauds the NZ government for this important step and hopes that a desperately needed New Zealand Dolphin (comprising the Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins) sanctuary will follow shortly. The NZ government has recognised the economic importance of the Kaikoura whale watching industry but it also needs to recognise that its own unique dolphin is a very important tourism drawcard as well.