A man has been fined $600 by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) for trying to “body slam” a whale in February 2024. A video of the incident was posted on Instagram and a member of the public reported it to the authorities. 

The video, recorded in the waters off Devonport, Auckland, Aotearoa, shows a man standing on the edge of a boat with an orca swimming beside and then jumping into the water, seemingly trying to land on the nearby whale, and then saying, “I touched it. Did you get it?”

On 21st May 2024, the DOC shared the video on its Facebook page, stating the footage shows “what appears to be a deliberate effort to touch or ‘body slam’ the orca…The incident showed a shocking and stupid attitude to protected marine mammals…The man showed reckless disregard for his own safety – and that of the adult male orca with a calf swimming near the vessel.”

DoC Principal Investigation Officer Hayden Loper said, “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.”

According to the Guardian, New Zealand orcas can be found throughout the country’s coastline, but they are classed as “nationally critical” as the population is just 150-200.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.