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Shipping Industry Acts to Protect Bryde’s Whales

Ports of Auckland today released a new protocol for large ships using the Hauraki Gulf, which is designed to make life safer for the local whale population.

The voluntary protocol, developed jointly by Ports of Auckland and the shipping industry, aims to reduce the number of collisions between whales and ships and the impact of any collisions which do occur.

Tony Gibson, Ports of Auckland CEO, said “The Gulf is a vital economic lifeline for New Zealand, but it is also a precious natural resource which we share with some amazing wildlife. It is important that those of us who use the Gulf also do what we can to preserve it, and our local population of Bryde’s whales."

The protocol has four key elements. Ships are asked to:

  1. plan their voyage to allow lower speeds in the Gulf when possible
  2. use the new recommended approach to the Ports of Auckland, which reduces the area of the Hauraki Gulf used by large vessels
  3. keep watch for whales and take avoiding action if whales are sighted
  4. report whale sightings to Ports of Auckland Harbour Control. All sightings are then relayed to shipping in the Gulf so avoiding action can be taken.

Mr Gibson said “I would like to acknowledge the support of Dr Rochelle Constantine of Auckland University in developing this protocol. Rochelle has worked tirelessly for many years as a champion of our local Bryde’s whales and her practical, pragmatic approach has been key in the development of this protocol.”

“I would also like to acknowledge the support and assistance of Sean Goddard from the Department of Conservation, and also the work of the Hauraki Gulf Forum and Environmental Defence Society as we’ve developed the shipping industry response to this issue,” he added.

Hauraki Gulf Forum Chairman John Tregidga congratulated the Ports of Auckland and shipping industry on the new protocol.

“Planning ahead and reducing speed are the critical factors for preventing mortality of Bryde’s whales. There is good scientific evidence that 10 knots is a safer travelling speed around whales and it is good to see this being promoted and adopted by large vessels in the inner Gulf.”

“We are very encouraged that Ports of Auckland is taking a lead on this issue,” said EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart. “The Bryde’s whale is an iconic species for the Hauraki Gulf and we need to look after it. If we can achieve a consistent reduction in the speed of ships travelling through the Gulf, the whales will be much safer.”

Ports of Auckland’s efforts to reduce collisions with whales do not end with the production of this protocol. The Port is contributing $30,000 to a year-long research project to count and map whales and other marine mammals in the Hauraki Gulf. It is hoped that this research will provide information which could allow ships to avoid areas where whales congregate.

Ports of Auckland is also looking for high-tech ways to keep ships and whales apart, for example by warning whales about approaching ships, or enabling detection of whales in the shipping lanes. The Port will continue to work with Dr Constantine to identify research that could help in this area.

Click here to read the Hauraki Gulf Transit Protocol document.


Ports of Auckland Ltd is the port for New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. It handles over 818,000 TEU (20ft-equivalent units), more than 1,400 ship calls and 4.4 m tonnes of break-bulk (non-containerised) cargo per annum. It is New Zealand’s import hub, New Zealand’s premier cruise port and the countries main vehicle import gateway. A key partner to export and import industries, Ports of Auckland is 100%-owned by Auckland Council Investments Ltd, for the benefit of Auckland Ratepayers.

Bryde’s whales: While not endangered world-wide, the Hauraki Gulf is one of the few places in the world with a semi-resident population of Bryde’s whale. The local whale population is small, estimated at less than 200, and is listed as critically endangered in New Zealand.​​