The Department of Conservation says it is yet to speak to a man who broke wildlife regulations by swimming within metres of an orca and her calf in Wellington Harbour.
Marine biology student Sam Wild says orcas are his favourite animals, but he'll watch from shore next time he encounters them.
Mr Wild is a marine biology student but hadn't seen an orca in real life until yesterday. His brief but close encounter with a pod of them, including a juvenile, left him exhilarated.
“It was scary,” he says. “It was exciting. It was everything at once. It was incredible.”
Mr Wild was one of many who followed the orcas hunting stingrays in the harbour. He took his enthusiasm a step further and jumped into the sea.
“I'm not just an average Joe jumping in my jocks. I knew there are no recorded attacks in the wild.”
But he says he didn't know his close encounter was illegal.
In a statement, DOC says the public should be able to view marine mammals without causing them distress, and that is why we have regulations in place. Under the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations it is an offence to swim within 100m of a whale - this includes orcas/killer whales. The penalty for breaching the regulations is a $10,000 fine.
DOC wants to talk to Mr Wild before deciding if it will take any action.
“The fact is it has brought to light the law,” says Mr Wild. “Not many people know it’s illegal to swim with them.”
Mr Wild says orcas might be his favourite animals, but the next time he sees them he'll stay out of the water.