Close this search box.

Orca body-slammer fined for ‘stupid’ behaviour


Man attacks orca - an incident that could have ended very differently, says DOC
Man attacks orca - an incident that could have ended very differently, says DOC

A case of intelligent life-forms encountering human beings occurred when a 50-year-old New Zealand man jumped off a pleasure boat in a bid to “body-slam” a male orca swimming alongside with a calf.

The exploit was intended for sharing on social media, but because it was a first offence the man has escaped with a fine of NZ $600 (about £290). 

Department of Conservation (DoC) staff described his actions, seen on a video shared on Instagram in February, as displaying a “shocking and stupid attitude” to protected marine mammals.

The incident occurred off Auckland on a weekend when the DOC and Devonport harbourmaster had received a number of calls from the public about people getting too close to the mammals. 

DOC principal investigation officer Hayden Loper described the man as showing reckless disregard for his and the orcas’ safety. While onlookers on the boat laugh and cheer he is heard on the footage shouting: “I touched it!” before checking that his action had been caught on camera. 

‘Genuinely stunned'

“The video left us genuinely stunned,” said Loper. “As well as the initial attempt to dive onto the animal, the man stays in the water and then swims toward it again in a second attempt to touch it. This is stupid behaviour and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the welfare of the orca. It is extremely irresponsible.

“Orca are immensely powerful animals, and this really could have ended horribly – with either the startled whale being injured, or the man responsible being harmed by the aggravated animal.

“It’s a very clear breach of the Marine Mammals Protection Act. Orca are classified as whales under conservation legislation and it is illegal to swim with whales, or disturb or harass any marine mammal.”

Lenient fine

Answering online criticism of the lenient fine, the DoC said that an infringement notice had been issued in place of a full prosecution “because the offender had not received previous compliance action, and the incident did not appear to result in significant harm or disturbance to the orca involved”.

But it warned that “anyone charged with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a marine mammal could face a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000”.

The New Zealand killer whale population numbers 150-200 individuals. “This is the third case in recent years in which social media content has led to a successful prosecution for DOC and we greatly appreciate the tip-offs we get from the public,” said Loper.

Also read: Amazing orca encounter at Sipadan, Young orca rescued by BDMLR in the Orkney Islands, Orcas join RNLI on training exercise

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Get a weekly roundup of all Scuba Diver news and articles Scuba Mask
We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Latest Stories
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x