The Department of Conservation has received over 640 submissions to the proposed Bay of Islands Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
The proposal, announced by the Government on February 25, means swimming with dolphins will be banned, and vessels must maintain a 400m distance from marine mammals in the entire Te Pēwhairangi area.
Vessels will be restricted to 5 knots within two "marine-mammal safe zones".
The sanctuary aims to protect marine mammals - especially bottlenose dolphins, which are on the brink of extinction in the Bay of Islands.
DoC marine biodiversity senior ranger Cat Peters said the submissions represent "a good level of engagement and feedback from individuals, companies and organisations at a local and national level".
"We are aiming to make submissions publicly available with appropriate redactions as soon as possible.
"At this stage we expect to have all submissions published on our website in July, and to finalise advice for our minister later in the year enabling a final decision to be made on the proposal.
"Until then we will continue to monitor the bottlenose dolphins in Te Pēwhairangi Bay of Islands."
Conservation Minister Kiri Allan, who announced the plan in Paihia in February, encouraged public feedback on the plan, which was developed with Nga Hapu o te Pewhairangi.
"The purpose of the sanctuary is to protect the taonga out here," Allan said.
The sanctuary is aimed at protecting marine mammals especially bottlenose dolphins, which are on the brink of extinction in the Bay of Islands.
Research shows a dramatic decline of 91 per cent in the local bottlenose dolphin population, from 278 in 1999 to just 26 recognisable individuals in 2020. Of these 26, only 16 now frequently visit the Bay.
But Bay of Islands tourism operators fear the sanctuary will "massively impact" their businesses, which have already been slammed by the economic fallout of Covid-19.
Diving companies and tour-boat operators say the proposed sanctuary is not workable in its current form.
Paihia Dive owner Craig Johnston said there would be "major and unintended consequences" for businesses if the 400m rule applied to fur seals.
"If they're applying it to seals as well that has the potential to cut off a lot of the coastal areas for diving and fishing. If they're on the rocks at Bird Rock, that's one of our most popular dive sites. There's pretty much fur seals there all the time.
"They're not like a pod of dolphins which will swim past. A fur seal can sit there all day."
■ Proposed restrictions.
The sanctuary includes proposed restrictions including:
Not being in the water within 400 metres of marine mammals in Te Pewhairangi (Bay of Islands).
Vessels maintaining a 400-metre distance from marine mammals in Te Pewhairangi (Bay of Islands).
A 5-knot speed limit for vessels in two smaller marine mammal safe zones.