Two people on surf boards attempting to swim with the dolphin pod near the Turret Road bridge this morning have been intercepted by DOC rangers.
The pod the rangers estimate to be about 20 in number, were there at daybreak today. It is a rare visit by the endangered species.
“We have chased away a couple of people on surfboards so far this morning,” says Tracy Mezger at DOC Tauranga.
“These mammals are in confined waters at the moment. They have come into the harbour for a rest and a feed, and it’s not appropriate for people to interact with them.”
DOC staff are not concerned about the dolphins stranding. Low tide was at 9.20am, and the pool above the bridge has sufficient depth for the pod at all states of the tide.
“There are DOC staff monitoring the situation,” says Tracy. “It’s a very unusual visit.”
The pod is thought to be feeding on kahawai and mullet.
There are only about 450 bottlenose dolphins in New Zealand waters between the Bay of Islands and Whakatane, and are less common that Maui dolphins.
There are fewer than 1200 that range the New Zealand coastline altogether.
A SunLive reporter says mid-morning Welcome Bay traffic is backed up around Welcome Bay, and there are a lot of cars pulled up along the causeway. People driving across the causeway into town are slowing down for a look.
For the earlier story and video click here.