A marine researcher is calling for a high-powered boat race in the Bay of Islands to be canned as it could threaten the lives of endangered bottlenose dolphins.

The timing of the Thunder in the Bay boat race, also dubbed "the equivalent of Formula One", off Waitangi tomorrow couldn't be worse as it falls during peak calving time, says Karen Stockin, the director of Massey University's Coastal-Marine Research Group.

"This area is not only a critical habitat for this population but it is peak calving season," Dr Stockin said.

Race organisers, NZ Offshore Powerboat Racing, had approval from the Northland Regional Harbourmaster but, "the Department of Conservation, the agency responsible for managing marine mammals in New Zealand, does not appear to have been consulted until after that approval was granted," Dr Stockin said.

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However, harbour master Jim Lyle said the Northland Regional Council, Massey University, Department of Conservation, race organisers and other groups had worked through a consultative process several months ago that included risk mitigation.

A NZ Offshore Powerboat Racing spokesman also said an extensive dolphin protection plan had been prepared in consultation with the harbourmaster, council, local dolphin experts and DoC.

"As part of the plan there will be at least 15 patrol and marker boats around the course, and an additional helicopter has been contracted," Leanne Erceg said. A dolphin watching ship with observers would also be used.