Eastern Bay of Plenty approved Marine mammal tourism operators who attended a Swimming with Seals workshop run by the Department of Conservation late last year received a welcomed Christmas present on the afternoon of the 24Th Dec when they were granted concessions to swim with seals in the region.
Phil van Dusschoten owner operator of Diveworks Charters who has been operating Swimming with Dolphins out of Whakatane for the past 2 seasons is elated. " It just adds another wonderful tourism opportunity to the Eastern Bay area" he says.
Mr van Dusschoten says that the common New Zealand furseal called Kekeno, has been re establishing itself in small but ever growing breeding colonies on several Islands in the region for two decades now. They are extremely friendly and interactive and seem to enjoy the human company however they are still wild animals and need to be treated with respect.
During the summer months we have warm clear blue water up to 23 deg Celsius so who would want to swim amongst icebergs in Kaikoura he goes on to say, this will be a wonderful addition to our swimming with Dolphins and will extend our season for the Eco tourist.
There are restrictions on operations to prevent over exploitation and stress on the animals and the public are advised that if they want to swim with seals that it should only be carried out with an approved operator.