French Pass, D'Urville Island News

French Pass, D'Urville Island News


November 2013

Enjoy a selection of our latest videos on our You tube channel. 'Conversation with orca' is proving very popular followed by the 'dolphins at our door' series.

Go to You Tube

May 2013

Our friendly pod of Bottle nose dolphins continue to visit the bay. Stingray have been entertaining our visitors as they search for fish bits along the foreshore discarded from peoples fishing trips. Fishing has been steady with catches of blue cod and snapper. Marine reserves would certainly help fish stocks by allowing breeding stock to grow bigger there by distributing more eggs. As an example a 40cm coral trout will produce 350,000 young, a 50cm fish 1 million young and a 60cm fish 3 million young. To get back on top of the game we need to be looking wider than recreational fishing limits.

We have been active in standing up for the environment through court hearings and by presenting underwater footage to the environment court and board of inquiry. Some of these videos can be seen on our Frenchpass Youtube channel.

We have assisted 'Fauna Recovery' in transferring parakeets to offshore islands.

Our Dusky dolphins have arrived in the Sounds and will continue with their winter foraging. Expanding aquaculture are displacing Duskies by taking up water space in their feeding grounds. The importance of winter foraging cannot be over estimated as the dolphins drive bait fish from the depths into diving range of gannets, shear water, gulls and other species. Everything is interconnected.

For the latest wildlife photos go to 'French Pass Sea Safaris & Beachfront Villas' Facebook page. 

December 2012 

We have enjoyed dolphins being seen most days. Cawthron Research Marine Mammal team have been on the water over the past months and found Common dolphin, Dusky dolphin, Bottle nose dolphin, Orca and this week Pilot Whale. Admiralty Bay is a special migratory route for these mammals as well as seabirds.

French Pass Sea Safaris are putting up a lot of photos on their facebook page. We recommend you 'like' this page to keep up with postings.

We are endeavoring to get more movie up for you to see. For the full range of films go to 'Frenchpass' on You tube. has been catching baitfish for research on Australasian Gannets feeding behaviour. The research is being undertaken by Gabriel Machovsky Capuska from Massey University. His research shows how interconnected everything is with Gannets from Farewell Spit feeding at French Pass.


January 2012 Early this month several dives were made in French Pass and a short film put together. Possibly the very first film taken and shown of the passages and holes in the Pass. This film was made to contribute to the understanding of our ocean which is continually under threat and exploitation. To dive the French Pass go to the following link


December 2011

In January we warned about the exploitation of the Marlborough Sounds and need for a more holistic approach with intergrated management. The year saw the first of two meetings looking at addressing pressing problems. A group is being set up to work towards a long term plan.

King Salmon and other companies have put forward proposals for over 8 new salmon farms. In their present state they will not mitigate the pollution output. KS and government are fast tracking these applications but be warned once they are in it will be very difficult to get them removed. We all need to be educated about oxygen depletion and dead zones. Follow up on associated links on our links page and see what we are heading for if these applications go ahead in their present state. Another website of interest to visit is as well as concerns expressed on the WWF site.

 Blue cod regulations have seen the fishery partially  closed and reopening on 19th December.

French Pass is an important foraging area for Orca. A new video is up at


January 2011

Be vigil. 2011 will bring change to the marine environment in the Marlborough Sounds but will not go far enough to 'enhance' the environment. New regulations are out to manage the blue cod fishery. Some initiatives will work well in relation to size and a no take area around Maud Island. However the plan does not go far enough in species protection. A missed opportunity has been to gather relevant data on all caught species and to manage the sounds more holistically. Government desperately need to honour the promised 10% marine reserves with a view of increasing the size to 20 to 30% and incorporate other measures in the form of MPA's, Taipure and mataitai. 

New legislation for aquaculture will be a problem. If we are to enhance the sounds we need to look at and establish marine protected areas before exploitation by other users.

October 2010

Call for new respect for Biodiversity

A radical change in policy, economic thinking and business practice is needed Conservation Department director general Al Morrisson said at Lincoln University. 

We couldn't agree more, unfortunatly this message has still not got through to the National Government as we wait for our promised 10% marine reserves which were promised by 2010. See Al Morrisson's  full speech on the Departments Website or google Al Morrison Lincoln University.

June 2010

The threat rating for bottlenose dolphins has been lifted from not threatened to nationally endangered by the Department of Conservation. This shows the tragic reality that we are not managing our marine space, important foraging areas for dolphins. In Admiralty Bay fishers net and trawl through pods of bottlenose, dusky and common dolphin to the species detriment. Areas once productive and a rich source of food are now over fished and being extensively used for aquaculture. This dilemma can only be halted with marine protected areas, urgently needed for the future of not only dolphins but the Marlborough Sounds.

March 2010

March brings Sea Week. French Pass Sea Safaris will be showing the film 'Fish for the Future' throughout the week.

A pod of Pilot Whales was sighted off half way point.

Penguins are in moult and susceptible  to  starvation at this time.Two Little Blue Penguins were seen baitballing a small shoal of fish off one of the nearby islands, stunning.

Last month saw several days where two Bottlenose Dolphins spent all day playing and leaping in the bay.

A NZ Falcon has made French Pass its home and can regularly be seen on walks.

Australian Worldwide Exploration Ltd

A notice of appeal has been filed against the Marlborough District Council by friends of Nelson Haven re the consent to drill a test oil well off the bottom of d'Urville Island. Some of the reasons for appeal are a flawed environment assessment report and threat to the Marlborough Sounds only endemic species, the rare King Shag, which has a population of only 645 birds.

January 2010

Saturday the 8th saw the Yamaha Adventure Motorcycle Club, of over 78 bikes, descend on French Pass where they enjoyed a lunch courtesy of French Pass Sea Safaris.

The sailing vessel 'Steadfast' is busy with overnight and day trips in the beautiful surrounds of d'Urville Island. See link.

The DOC camping ground has been popular for campers.

d'Urville Island walks, marine mammal encounters and swims and sportfishing have all been popular with French Pass Sea Safaris. See link.

For an update on dolphins & seabirds see the wildlife report.

Change of Season

December 12th 2009 sees a later change in summer species.  Colder waters have seen a later migration of Kingfish and Snapper to the area. Unsettled weather has bought seabirds, including Giant Petrels, Fairy Prions and Shearwaters within easy view of French Pass.

Pods of Dusky, Common and Bottlenose Dolphins have regularly been seen. Commercial Trawling and recreational fishing pressure has been high throughout Admiralty Bay. Aquaculture continues to impact on dolphins and the food web. The Minister of Fisheries has made no move to be proactive in taking a holistic approach to fisheries management in the outer Marlborough Sounds.

Marlborough District Council have approved the drilling of an exploratory oil well off the coast of d'Urville Island. Statistics show a 1 in 200 chance of a spill. Concern for the marine environment, rare endemic King Shag, marine mammals and seabirds is genuine as questions are being asked about the environmental assessment report being flawed.

A way forward for marine management.

The Science of Marine Reserves. PISCO Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans. A must read paper on marine reserves studied from around the world. Go to  

Mini Theatre Opening 

A New mini theatre is opening on Friday night to showcase local wildlife in high definition. Friday the 20th November will showcase the movie 'End of the Line'. Its all happening at French Pass Sea Safaris & Beachfront Villas.

Visit our Wildlife report for an update on Dolphins, Seals & Seabirds. 

White Dolphin Sighted 

September 2009 a white Bottlenose dolphin has been sighted in the Marlborough Sounds. If you see this dolphin please pass on your sighting to the Department of Conservation. 

 Rare whale makes visit

August 15th 2009 a rare southern right whale made a visit to local bays.

A Wakeup Call 'as important as the global warming debate'.

'Seasick' The hidden ecological crisis of the global ocean by Alanna Mitchell. This newly published book explains about the Ph and health of our oceans. Tim Flannery wrote 'A riveting book of revelations about earth's largest and most important habitat'.

Ocean Acidity a Threat to New Zealand 

(Otago Daily Times 02/02/09) Global warmings evil twin, the increasing acidification of carbon dioxide-saturated oceans is threatening New Zealands corals, crustaceans and shellfish. 'Ocean acidification is accelerating' Dunedins Researcher Christina McGraw said. For more on the ocean and acidification go to

Schools Visit

February 10th Garin College has arrived for their 2009 school retreat. Approx 50 students are immersing themselves into the natural French Pass environment in what has become one of the schools yearly highlights. Students will be spending time in quiet contemplation, learning to snorkle and swimming with marine mamals as well as reflecting on natures presence. 

Environment Court Hearings February 09

The aquaculture industry are fighting to expand their marine farms in Admiralty Bay. They are wanting to double the width of all the surrounding farms to the detriment of the Dusky Dolphin Population and other wildlife. A&M Texas University has said that the impact is detrimantal to the visiting winter populations of Dusky dolphins. Admiralty Bay is one of few places in the world where Dusky Dolphins change their foraging strategy splitting into small groups and feeding on pilchard through the day. To support the Dusky populations marine farms should be relocated leaving Admiralty Bay in a more natural state free from noise pollution and food web competition. See Wildlife Threats on Video and Resources.

 Seas in crises.

Shining a spotlight on the biodiversity of New Zealand’s marine eco region.

An Experts Workshop on Marine Biodiversity held in May 2003 in Wellington New Zealand by the WWF-New Zealand made this statement.
"We marine scientists of various specialization, recognize New Zealand’s oceanic environment and ecosystems as unique and highly regionalized, with a level of biodiversity of global significance.
A great deal remains unknown about New Zealand’s marine environment; vast regions are unexplored, interactions between species and their environments are not understood, and we lack the expertise to recognize and document many of the components of the biota. Consequently, the capacity to use and manage marine resources, or even identify possible human impacts is limited.
If we New Zealanders are to live in a sustainable relationship with our oceanic environment and benefit  from the use of the marine resources of our EEZ, we need more information.
Our current lack of knowledge is alarming and does not represent a sound basis for reliable policy and management decisions.
We urge immediate action by the Government and other stakeholders to ensure the capacity of relevant institutions to address this situation."

Are we offering too little too late? The government has developed Marine Management Areas. Of these they are looking at 10% of which only a small proportion will be no take. WWF talk of 35% to 40% areas of no take to rebuild a fishery.

As a starting point we need to be looking at 10% minimum no take and build the other restrictions on top of that. We are now in 2008 5 yrs after the concerns addressed above and still have only one tiny marine reserve ‘no take area’ in the Marlborough Sounds.

The Unnatural History of the Sea
This book makes for compelling reading. The past and future of humanity and fishing by Professor Callum Roberts. Will fish and chips be off the menu for our grandchildren? Will global fish stocks really collapse within the next 50 years? Eloquent and inspiring with a way forward for our oceans. recomend this book as a must read.

Blue Penguins
Watch for Blue Penguins when boating. Sometimes they are hard to see and can't get out of the way quick enough from a fast boat. We are losing our specie range at an alarming rate with three quarters of our remaining bird life now threatened. (See NZ biodiversity strategy).

Pied Shag
When fishing in the French Pass area take care not to catch shags on your line as they will come to the boat looking for fish. The best way is to move the boat slowly towards them on the water to chase them off if they become too aggressive for fish.

New research shows that size does matter. When a female crayfish has her eggs fertilized by a large buck all eggs get fertilized. When she is fertilized by a smaller buck only partial fertilization is achieved and the following year her ovaries will reduce in size only producing half the amount of eggs. This leads to a decline in eggs being produced ultimately leading to a decline in crayfish numbers. Looks like we need to change our regulations to accommodate the specie by protecting marine areas with ‘no take’.

Blue Cod
Surveys show blue cod are in decline at an alarming rate. Again this shows that habitat needs to be protected to allow the fish to recover. See eco-system based management under resources.

The inner Sounds have been closed off to Blue Cod fishing but this is putting more pressure on the outer Sounds which has not been given any added protection. If we are serious about our fishery we need to close a min of 35% to all forms of take and create a network of marine reserves. See 'The unnatural history of the sea'.

Traditional Sail

Steadfast, a beautiful, big, 45 ton, gaff cutter is now operating from French Pass. Beautifully crafted with natural woods and polished finish, Steadfast makes for a wonderful traditional sailing experience. Book at

Short Film
A short film ‘French Pass nature’s presence’ is now available from French Pass Sea Safaris. A compelling video on the local marine life taken at night, seabirds and marine mammals and the need for urgent action for eco-system based management. This can also be purchased on line at