Russell photographer and charter sailor Stephen Western snapped this picture of dolphins leaping in the Bay of Islands on Thursday with the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the distance.

The Solstice, with 2800 passengers on board heading to Sydney, is one of 51 cruise ships carrying a record 95,000 passengers due to visit the Bay this season.

Dolphins are plentiful in the Bay of Islands this summer, but the excitement of encountering the marine mammals on the water has come with a warning from the Department of Conservation - give them more space to avoid killing or maiming them.

While it's tempting to get close to snap the perfect photo, DOC wants boaties to help keep the Bay of Islands' bottlenose dolphins safe this summer by keeping their distance.

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The annual influx of boats during the busy summer period coincides with peak calving season, when dolphins are most vulnerable.

If you would like to watch the dolphins, you must slow down gradually to below 5 knots within 300m of the dolphin pod. Never circle a pod or herd the dolphins. Approach from behind and to the side of the group.

By law, there must not be more than three boats within 300m of a dolphin pod. All dolphins, whales and seals are protected by law. Harassment of marine mammals is against the law.

If you see people harassing dolphins phone 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

PHOTO/STEPHEN WESTERN