Nelson man Sam Wild, 21, faced a $10,000 fine for swimming with orca whales in Wellington last week. Insert: a picture taken of Sam in the water with the orcas.

Nelson orca swimmer escapes $10,000 fine

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The Nelson marine biology student that swam with six orcas in Wellington’s harbour says he would do it all again in a heart beat, although next time he might be issued with a $10,000 fine.
Nelson man Sam Wild, 21, is a former Nayland College student who caught the attention of the nation last week, jumping at the “once in a lifetime” chance to swim within arms reach of a whale pod, which also included a baby orca.
He described the experience as “terrifying, exhilarating, scary and exciting” but never once thought he was in danger of being attacked. “If I held my arm out I would’ve been able to touch them,” he says. “Everybody else who is studying the same thing [as me] said they would have done the exact same thing in that situation. There are no regrets at all.”
But the reaction to Sam’s whale swim has been mixed and he only narrowly avoided a $10,000 fine for breaching a Marine Mammals Protection Regulation that states it is an offence to swim within 100m of a whale – something he never knew existed. “What went from the experience of a lifetime swimming with these orcas, has turned into something it shouldn’t be.”
He says he was well aware of the risks involved and that the negative publicity has definitely dampened the experience. “I honestly just did it for the experience; I wasn’t there to show off or anything like that. I knew the risk I was taking. I knew the chances of an attack or getting hurt were minimal.”
Sam made contact with the Department of Conservation on Friday to clear the air over the issue. He got a stern warning but was happy that he could move on from the incident. “I’m from Mapua so I’ve spent most of my life near the ocean, all my hobbies are in the ocean, all my passion is in the ocean and this is where I want my career to go. Whether it’s with orca, only time will tell.”