Akaroa Wildlife, Our Environment and Environmental Responsibility


Hector's Dolphin Alongside Manutara

Sign the Save Whales and Dolphins Petition on line

More threats to Hectors Dolphins from fast boats, collision and noise

Learn about Akaroa NZ Wildlife - Experience It Yourself at your arm's length.
There are three protected species in Akaroa Harbour: Hector Dolphin, NZ Fur Seal and the White Flippered Little Blue Penguin. While on our cruise, we will hopefully see all of the wildlife mentioned however now is the time to understand that they are WILD! They do not perform like trained captive animals, and they are sometimes not interested or curious about us as humans, in fact they sometimes exhibit shyness when mechanical or exhaust noise intrudes on their environment. We may or may not see any or all of the wildlife mentioned. 'A-Class' Sailing does not have a NZ Department of Conservation permit to 'Watch' dolphins or 'Swim with' dolphins. We will not alter course to intercept dolphins, we will not attempt to encourage or entice Hector dolphins and we will not stop or reduce speed to interact with Hector's dolphins. In addition, we'll show you the Paua Farm, The Salmon Farm. We'll also likely see Cormorants and Shags, possibly Albatross, Giant Ocean Petrel and other sea birds.

It is our belief that the Hector Dolphins, and other species, come into the shallow water of Akaroa Harbour to escape large predators and to relax and recover from the job of survival out at sea. We believe to actively seek out, and then stop on top of dolphins, or enter the water with dolphins, as allowed in the DOC permit, is in fact to stress them out, at the very time when they most need relaxation. The definition of Environmental Sustainability as it affects tourism is "to provide a tourist activity that in no way endangers or affects negatively the ability of future generations to experience the environment". Our objective therefore is to take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but clean water behind us.

Threats to hectors Dolphins: "Potential threats to their survival include trawling, marine pollution, disease and impacts of tourism and aquaculture." Only A-Class Sailing could cruise twice daily for 100 years and have NO practical impact on the Akaroa Environment - Who else can say that! The Ultimate Way to Experience Akaroa NZ Wildlife - Up Close and VERY Personal!
How can you make a difference as an eco-tourist?

Little Blue Penguins forage for food

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Hector's Dolphins
First discovered by Sir James Hector in 1888, these dolphins are unique to NZ, and the South island in particular. They are an endangered species with numbers estimated to be around 6000. It is estimated that around 250 Hector's Dolphins visit Akaroa Harbour, normally entering the harbour from spring, over summer, until autumn. Cows and calves are a rare and welcome sight. The Hector's Dolphins have a lifespan of approximately 20 years. The females mate and breed once every three years, remaining with the calf for around 18 months before abandoning them. This means in their 20 year lifespan they are likely to have a maximim of 6 calves. The males mate with different females repeatedly, and leave immediately following mating.

For more information on the Hectors, Maui dolphins or any of the animals on this page try these Internet links:
NZ Department of Conservation
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research
Environment Canterbury
The predators/threats of the Hectors Dolphin are threefold: Sharks, Orca and Man. Sharks and Orca will eat the dolphins, and they can become trapped in nets at sea. Being unable to swim backwards, once enmeshed in a net, the dolphin usually drowns. Recently a dolphin calf was killed by a jet-skier off Wainui beach. Non-commercial boaties are mostly unaware of the 5 knot speed limit around dolphins and speed across the top of them repeatedly. Resultant damage to dolphin's backs and fins is not uncommon. Protection of the species is enshrined in NZ Environmental law. Right now, the DOC is attempting to have large areas of the South Island (including Akaroa Harbour) designated a reserve and on October 1st 2009 a Taiapure (fishing restriction) was put in place. In addition, large stretches of the West coast of the North Island are currently gazetted as reserves to protect the Maui Dolphin (a sub-species of the Hectors) from fishing. This action is currently being challenged in the High Court by the Fishing Industry lobby.

NZ Fur Seal
New Zealand fur seals are found around Banks Peninsula and sometimes, rarely, right in the harbour. The NZ Fur Seal was an endangered species when the Europeans first arrived in NZ. After the arrival of the European, the NZ fur Seal was further depleted, being sought for its skin and blubber, which was rendered down like whale blubber. The seals eat mostly fish found offshore from Banks Peninsula. Recent studies have suggested the seals travel up to 200 miles offshore and their diet consists mostly of Lantern fish as well as some squid. They routinely dive down to 200m for their food. There are estimated to be approximately 20,000 NZ Fur Seals around Banks Peninsula.

A typically enquisitive NZ Fur Seal
The seals breed on rocky beaches with plenty of shaded crevices and tidal pools. Their layer of fat and thick fur coats can cause overheating on land. There's a large seal population at Peraki, approximately 350 seals line the shores. Seals have come right into Akaroa and one specimen was seen to be lazing on the main beach last summer. The dominant male mates with numerous females. Some males do not breed every season. Male seals can weigh up to 180kg, with the average female weighing 40kg. The female does all the nursing of the baby seals. She stays with the pup for about 12 days, then alternates between feeding at sea and suckling. Pups are weaned in July or August, and the pregnant females go to sea to fatten once again. The young pups then head out to sea, coming ashore at times to rest. Females start breeding at around four years of age.

Little Blue Penguin
Weighing only around 1 kilogram, and 400mm in length, Little Blue Penguins are also named for the bluish plumage on their backs. They are largely nocturnal on land, coming ashore after sunset. Little Blue Penguins nest in burrows, caves, rock crevices and, more rarely, under buildings. There's a large cave just north of the Paua Farm where hundreds of Little Blue penguins nest. Typically the female will lay two eggs, eggs are laid three days apart.

Little Blue Penguins in the Wild.
Photo by Annabelle Flower, December 2009
Although many species of this penguin are found around Australasia, we have a unique sub-species: the White Flippered Little Blue Penguin (albosignata) on Banks Peninsula. Although scientists are still debating whether the White Flippered variant is a sub species, they will mate with other little blue penguins not of the white flippered variety. There is a native reserve of these penguins in Flea Bay. Created 17 years ago by the Helps family, using their own money and efforts, this reserve is now recognized by DOC as vitally important breeding area for the White Flippered Penguin.

Shags and Cormorants
The Shag is the most numerous and widespread sea bird on Banks Peninsula. It is a large, dark coloured bird with grey markings. Also called the Spotted Shag, it is confused often with the white fronted shag or Crested Cormorant. They are two separate species of sea bird. It is thought they are called shag because of the sometimes shaggy feathers on the heads of some species. The Spotted shag tends to prefer nesting on rocks and crevices around the outer reaches of Akaroa Harbour. Its nesting sites are easily picked out because of the white guano marks made by the excrement of these birds, on the rocks around their nests. Large pebbles are occasionally found in shag nests, and the shags sometimes treat them as eggs. In rocky breeding colonies where the nests are placed on the ground, young shags leave their nests and congregate into groups with other youngsters for fishing expeditions.

A pied shag drying its wings after fishing.
The Crested Cormorant prefers to nest in trees. There is a colony of these birds in the pine trees on the rocky shoreline opposite Daly's wharf. The Crested Cormorant makes a bulky nest of sticks and other materials, high up in the branches of the trees. It frequently picks up rubbish, such as rope, and plastic flotsam to incorporate into the nest. Both sexes of bird share in incubating the egg, and they also share the fishing duties. We often see groups of 200 or more of these birds (juveniles) on the surface of the harbour. Then they all dive simultaneously and there are none visible at all. Then 30 seconds later, they start popping up from underwater at the same time. Now you see them, now you don't.

Paua (pronounced pawa) is a species of NZ Abalone, and it is exported around the world with this name. Our NZ variety is only found in the sea around New Zealand. The NZ variety differs from northern hemisphere abalone in that its flesh is dark in colour, whereas the northern variety is white fleshed. This marine mollusc eats seaweed and naturally lives clinging to rocks at depths of 1-10 metres, normally along the shoreline. This goes on for three years, after which the paua have grown to around 150mm in length. The paua are then harvested. The hope is that in the intervening three years, the paua will have coated the ceramic disc artificially inserted three years ago with that lovely blue-green nacre as seen on the inside of its shell. The pearls exhibit the same colouring. The Blue Pearls made with this colorful natural coating are unique to Akaroa and the details of their cultivation remains a closely guarded secret.

Paua shell showing half polished and half natural shell.
In Akaroa Harbour, the Paua occurs naturally, but for the most intensive use, the paua is farmed and cultivated for the Blue Pearls. The immature paua is placed into a plastic container, with a small ceramic disc placed under the body of the paua as an irritant. Every two weeks the plastic container is hauled up, the paua removed. The container is then water blasted to clean it, the paua replaced, with some seaweed as food, then the container is lowered back onto the line suspending it from the large black buoys. The meat of the harvested paua is exported to Asia and the USA, where abalone has always been regarded as one of the best seafood delicacies. However, we have to bleach the flesh to make it attractive to both the Asian and USA markets, where consumers are used to the white coloured flesh of the abalone. Paua meat tastes really good. It's like a cross between the taste of crayfish and cashew nuts. It's best eaten sliced thinly, and cooked very quickly in garlic butter. An alternative is to mince the meat and make it into paua patties, frying them either deep fried or in a pan with butter. Yummy!

Salmon are farmed commercially in Akaroa Harbour. The company Akaroa Salmon operates two large salmon farms, raising the salmon from tiny fingerlings to fully grown, 800mm long fish. A new plastic based farm is currently under trial between the two salmon farms. We hope to show you this on our cruises. In the Northern hemisphere there have recently been scandals involving the feeding of farmed salmon just on the waste from meat packing plants. The result of this is that the salmon flesh becomes pale and colourless. To overcome this, salmon farmers have been spreading pink dye on the flesh after they fillet the fish.

Small salmon in a farmed pen
Although the farmed salmon are fed on commercially produced food pellets, they also acquire food from the sea itself. This completes the salmon diet. Freshwater farmed salmon are fed solely on commercial fish food. The difference is evident in both the colour of the flesh and the flavour. The resultant health scare with the food colourings, coupled with the tastelessness of these farmed fish has negatively affected the price and attractiveness of the product. Here in Akaroa, no such practices take place. The Akaroa Salmon is naturally tasty and bright pink due to the wide range of natural nutrients they get while living in the wild salt water. They are VERY tasty and are available from many local restaurants.

Other Fish and Sea Life in Akaroa Harbour
Cod Fish. In Akaroa Harbour we used to have large reserves of Red Cod and Blue Cod, but these have been mostly fished out. At one stage there were 17 fishing vessels operating from Akaroa Harbour. All but one have moved to the larger commercial facilities of Lyttelton. Kahawai (Arripus trutta) are a common visitor to Akaroa Harbour especially in the summer months when the water becomes warmer. Kahawai are known in Australia as Sea Trout. They are a fine fighting fish, taste good and are easy to catch, if you can find them. Kingfish follow the Kahawai into the harbour. Hunting in packs, they round up Kahawai and then plunge through the ball, eating as much as they can.
Stingray - Skate - Flounder are all bottom dwellers. There is one very large black stingray which hangs around the Akaroa Main Wharf, to the fright of the occasional swimmers. We call him/her Blackie. Measuring 1.5m across, to see his dark shadow moving around the wharf is a great sight. Orca occasionally visit the harbour. Somtimes we know there are Orca at the harbour entrance because the dolphins travel further up the harbour to escape them. Orca are mammals (air breathing, warm blooded), are members of the dolphin family and are occasionally seen inside the harbour. Orca also like to eat Stingray and Skate. Sharks rarely visit the harbour. Small dogfish are there in plenty, but large sharks are a rarity. They mostly hang around outside the harbour. It is thought they feed on Fur Seals, Dolphins and other fishlife. Most seen species are Blue Sharks, Bronze Whalers, and once a Great White was rumoured to be in the area, but not any more.

Akaroa Harbour Wildlife We Could Encounter - Penguins Hectors Dolphins Seals Sea Birds Albatross Cormorant - Environmental sustainability

Activities in Akaroa - Sail Experience - Hectors Dolphins - Dolphins in Akaroa - Akaroa Activities - Akaroa Harbour Cruises

A-Class Sailing Akaroa
Our Environmental Objectives - Fern Leaf Green Project

Tell us about your environmental concerns on Akaroa Harbour.
Click HERE for the facts about A-Class Sailing and our Zero Carbon Footprint and Greenhouse Gas Reductions.

Think Globally - Act Individually.

You personally can affect the impact of tourism on the planet
Our 7 GREEN Objectives:
ZERO Exhaust emissions
ZERO Noise pollution
ZERO Wildlife intrusion
ZERO Fuel used
ZERO Wake effect
ZERO Effluent discharge

All around the world, people are becoming aware of the changes to our climate. With catchphrases like "Global Warming" and "Food Miles", people are wondering what exactly they can do as individuals, to enjoy their lives, yet remain in harmony with the planet we live on?

The answer for most people is to make their best difference with the biggest weapon they have: their Money!

We can make choices as consumers about where our money goes. As most of the polluters in the world are commercial businesses, and these businesses all produce a product, they are therefore most interested in people and businesses who choose to buy, or not to buy these products and why. The effect of the choice not to buy, makes a difference to the company's profits. That is the biggest corporate motivator known to man!

We as individuals can affect how these businesses exist within environmmental factors, by buying products from those open, transparent and environmentally responsible corporations. Just as we may choose not to buy plastic disposable products over re-useable ones, or to travel in a smaller rental car instead of a gas guzzlung SUV, we can also choose our holiday destinations, and activities, not just through pricing concerns, but through concerns for the environment.

Here's what A-Class Sailing are doing to reduce our impact on the environment, the animals that live in it, and the people who come on board as our customers... yes , you too form part of the environment.

We're not a huge corporate entity, yet, if we can change a tourist's mind, and get them choosing to sail we will make less impact on our fragile Akaroa enviroment and the animals in it, removing just one more day's pollution and noise stress! Think about it. Think about what you can do?

Our Environmental Statement - Save the Dolphins, Penguins, and the Banks Peninsula Environment from unsustainable toursim development

 Phone Free 0800-Sail-At-Akaroa (That's 0800-724-528)

9 Good reasons why A-Class means Environmentally Sustainable.
So much is being said about conservation, the creation of new Marine Mammal Reserves and the impact of tourism on wildlife, that it's time to introduce the only really GREEN tourism activity on Akaroa Harbour.

You see, we SAIL our vessel from virtually start to finish, only using the small diesel engine for safety reasons to leave from and approach the wharf at Akaroa, weather permitting.

What this means is we use on average approximately only 2.8 litres of diesel per 2 1/2 hour cruise! That's with a maximum of 20 passengers.

We achieve this by driving the ship with the force of nature only. The positive outcome for the environment and the marine life and mammals that live in Akaroa Harbour is manyfold:

1- No diesel fumes pollution of the air

2- No exhaust matter pollution being emmitted through the exhaust pipe

3- No noise pollution to disturb the customers or the wildlife (that's why the baby mammals approach the yacht very closely)

4- No fibreglass on the boat - she's built of Kauri and Teak timber with some modern plywood.

5- No bow wave effect to upset kayakers or juvenile sea birds, penguins etc on the surface or sea shore

6- No loudspeaker to disturb those crystal clear Akaroa days (some boats loudspeakers can be heard three miles away!)

7- We don't 'chase' the endangered Hectors dolphin. The dolphins chase us, and if they prefer to be elsewhere, they are.

8- Often we'll hear the dolphins before we see them. Any diesel noise makes the faint sound of Hector's dolphins and penguins calling to each other inaudible.

9- We recommend our customers use the nearby free public toilet before they board. We do not serve food on board, which reduces the potential for human waste. You can imagine the environmental impact of raw human sewage waste being emptied into the clean water every day!

You CAN make a difference. Choose the low-impact sailing trip over the unsustainable options.

A-Class Sailing is the only operator offering Akaroa Harbour Cruises that can provide a very personal and up-front wildlife experience for tourists, without impacting the environment. We can provide hundreds of cruises without any effect on the environment - truly a tiny environmental impact!

Our customers tell us that this is one of the very best Adventure Tourism Activities they've experienced. And speaking of experience, did I mention that we invite our customers to drive the yacht themselves? This makes A-Class Sailing a unique and truly personal and unforgettable experience, with little or no environmental impact.

I should mention that we believe we provide an 'A-Class' Adventure Tourism Experience, however the reason we're called 'A-Class Sailing' is that the large 47 foot hand built Kauri and Teak ocean sailing yacht we sail is one of the last genuine registered A-Class Keelers built. She's a large volume, ocean sailing yacht. Spacious and comfortable with 6 foot headroom throughout.

The A-Class was the largest, most venerable design pioneered by the Logan Brothers prior to 1900 and Logan and Salthouse Brothers post 1950 in Auckland. Parts of the yacht were hand built by Jack Logan himself. In fact he 'lofted out' the boat. It was Jack's last boat. This adds a 'je ne sais quois' of romance and character which is simply not there on a steel or fibreglass production vessel.

The proof is in the pudding. Some of our customers come back time after time (mostly on average 3 times) simply to experience the serenity and magic of driving this quiet classic yacht themselves.


 Take only pictures.. leave only footprints.

Compare the Facts about "Fern Leaf Green" Statistics on Akaroa Harbour
   A-Class Sailing Akaroa Other Boat #1
Max  # Passengers

Sail Boat

Fuel Use per week

20 litres

Cruising Speed

5 kn
Chases Dolphins

Stops on Wildlife

Food served on board

Sewage Issue

Diesel Exhaust

Engine Noise

No of Engines

Made of

Wake Effect

Disruption to water's edge

Environmental Impact

Very Low
Impact per Passenger

Very Low

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Our Environmental Statement - Save the Dolphins, Penguins, and the Banks Peninsula Environment from unsustainable toursim development

There are three protected species in Akaroa Harbour: Hector Dolphin, NZ Fur Seal and the White Flippered Little Blue Penguin. Bring a camera, great wildlife pictures. Our Environmental Statement - Save the Dolphins, Penguins, and the Banks Peninsula Environment from unsustainable tourism