Sea Week Conference for World Ocean Day and marine conservation

Dogs Dive into Sea Life at Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium on World Oceans Day


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World Oceans Day has just passed us by (8 June) and guess what? Dogs and sea life can totally hang out together in harmony! To encourage the community learning about this and ocean conservation in general, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and PD Insurance joined forces with SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium.

The Wednesday 7 June event proved that our four-legged pals and sea creatures can co-exist even when they meet unexpectedly.

PD Insurance is the Auckland partner of DOC’s Lead the Way programme, which is all about empowering New Zealanders to become wildlife-wise and do their part in protecting life on our beaches. By creatures we mean everything from native land and sea life to dogs, dog parents and everyone else who enjoys a beach day.

The epic event took place at Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE and it focused on exploring the relationship between marine species and our furry friends. Much as we love our pets, they can have a devastating impact on the environment when not properly managed at the beach and beyond.

Penguins at Sea Week Conference for World Ocean Day and marine conservation

Environmental impact of dogs and people

Let’s talk about the damage being done – and it’s very often unintentional by the dogs and pet owners involved.

Our Chief Operating Officer, Michelle Le Long, says, “Our beaches, from Bluff to 90 Mile, are a happening spot for pet parents and their canine companions. While most people pay attention to the signs that tell them how to handle their dogs on the beach, we still hear crazy stories about our coastal fauna getting hurt.”

World Oceans Day this year has a serious ocean conservation mission: protecting at least 30% of our ‘blue planet’ by 2030 to create a healthy ocean with a thriving wildlife population.

Unfortunately, not everything is sunshine and seashells on New Zealand’s coastline. In 2022 alone, DOC reported 25 incidents of dogs attacking and harassing wildlife in the greater Auckland region. Out of these, six led to the unfortunate deaths of birds like weka, kiwi, oystercatchers, and godwits.

Just imagine what’s happening nationally – that impact would be felt many, many times over.

Sophie Kynman-Cole, DOC’s Senior Biodiversity Ranger for Auckland Mainland District, says, “Dogs causing damage to wildlife is happening everywhere. We only get a glimpse of the interactions along our coasts. We only know what’s reported or what we happen to stumble upon. The sad reality is that whenever a dog is loose, not properly trained, or out of sight from its owner, it might be messing with wildlife, causing stress, and even causing physical damage or death.”

Sea Week Conference for World Ocean Day and marine conservation

Safety for all on World Oceans Day and beyond

Fear not! There are things we can all do to make a positive impact—for our dogs, ourselves, and all the pet parents out there.

At the World Oceans Day event Michelle highlights that incidents of harm can be avoided altogether, saying, “Every dog parent who enjoys sharing the outdoors with their dog should undertake some basic training for their fur kid. This includes teaching them recall, to stay by your side, and to leave something and return to you.”

“Good training is essential, especially for dogs off-leash in public places. Our native species – both seal life and land life – are precious and deserve our care. Nobody wants the shock of witnessing a penguin being harmed or dotterels being chased by dogs.”

And hey, a single incident can spoil the fun for all the responsible pet parents out there.

Michelle adds, “One incident can lead to more restrictions and closures on where dogs can roam freely or even visit. We definitely want to avoid that by promoting responsible behaviour, following the rules, and ensuring that every interaction between dogs and ocean-dwelling wildlife is safe.”

Now, let’s not forget about our furry friends and the hazards they face on their coastal adventures. Alongside consciously caring for marine animals at the beach, dog parents should be aware of dangers like washed-up pufferfish, jellyfish, sea slugs, and marine mammals like seals and sea lions.

Those basic training commands are going to come in very handy when you want to keep your dog away from accidentally causing themselves harm.

Sea Week Conference for World Ocean Day and marine conservation

Lead the Way for land and sea life, every day

After checking out DOC’s Dogs on Beaches guidelines and acing the Lead the Way Wildlife Wise quiz, dog parents can get their paws on a vibrant and oh-so-trendy colour-coded lead. This lead is not only fashionable but also informative, letting passers-by know what to expect from your furry companion.

So, what do the colours mean?

  • Green – means your dog is happy to be around other dogs and people.
  • Orange – means your dog isn’t always comfortable around other dogs and people.
  • Red – means your dog does not like socialising with unfamiliar dogs or people.
  • Yellow – means your dog is disabled in some way, so is vulnerable to some interactions.

Know where to go and when

But being Wildlife Wise is more than just looking fabulous and extends well beyond World Oceans Day. It’s about always knowing how to share the beach responsibly and understanding which areas are open, closed, or have specific lead or permit requirements for dogs.

Want the full scoop? Check out DOC’s pet access rules for a complete list of guidelines. But before you go, here are three simple tips to keep in mind:

1. Know before you go: Make sure to do your homework and check the rules online for different beach locations. Councils may have recently made some changes and those outdated signs could lead you astray.

2. Keep an eye out for sea life and other wildlife: Always have your trusty lead on hand and leash your dog when you’re near wildlife populations. And don’t forget to be a good Samaritan! Let others know if you spot any seals, penguins, or other feathered friends hanging out nearby.

3. Call your dog to the rescue: The moment you spot wildlife, it’s time to unleash your dog’s recall skills. If your furry pal needs a little extra training in that department, consider obedience classes. Not only will they strengthen the bond between you and your dog, but they’ll also ensure your dog is always well managed and safe.

Becoming Wildlife Wise

At the World Oceans Day event Michelle revealed an eye-opening statistic from the Lead the Way quiz: over 20% of respondents didn’t know how far dogs should stay from wildlife.

She emphasises, “Always maintain a minimum of 20m between your dog and wildlife.”

And here’s a little extra tip: while most people know to keep dogs off sand dunes due to nesting birds, it’s also crucial to keep them away from birds on the wet sand. Many migratory birds forage where the waves wash the sand. If they’re disturbed by chasing dogs they won’t get the nourishment they need to recover after a long flight.

This goes to show how valuable it is for every dog owner to lead the way and boost their Wildlife Wise knowledge. Even if you think you’re already in the know, a friendly reminder never hurts!

So, grab that colourful lead, get informed, and get ready for some epic beach adventures with your furry companion. Remember, you can make waves while keeping our wildlife and dogs safe. Let’s Lead the Way together.

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