Up close and personal

Man seizes chance to swim with orca

Last updated 05:00 06/03/2013

Orcas stay in Wellington Harbour

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As groups of orca entertained crowds of Wellingtonians for a second day, one man dived in for a closeup look.

A parade of about 40 to 50 cars followed one group around the Miramar peninsula yesterday afternoon, regularly stopping to watch as the animals cruised the shallows.

One snorkeller jumped in several times to swim near them, onlooker Derek Quinn, who photographed him, said.

"I think it was just him, but he seemed to do it a lot. He would drive along, then jump out and get in."

Under the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations of 1992, people are not allowed to swim near juvenile animals, which are generally present in most orca pods. Boats are meant to stay at least 300 metres away.

When Paekakariki man Simon O'Donnell got so close to a southern right whale in 2009 that he stood on it, police said they were considering trying to fine him up to $30,000 under the act.

Several groups of orca were spotted all over Wellington Harbour yesterday, including a pair that appeared to be an adult and a calf.

First seen at the central city waterside, the pair made their way past Oriental Bay and into Evans Bay. Meanwhile a bigger pod of up to six were sighted near the port.

Department of Conservation marine mammal expert Louise Chilvers said there were about 250 orca in New Zealand waters. They were often seen in Wellington Harbour, but it was rare for them to stick around.

"They usually come and go pretty fast."

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- The Dominion Post


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