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Keeping away from the whale

Press Release – Department of Conservation
Whale watchers should keep at least 50m away from the rare southern right whale/tohora in Wellington Harbour.

Collectively, no more than three vessels and/or aircraft should be within 300m of any marine mammal. ‘Vessel’ includes boats and kayaks, and swimming with whales is not permitted either.

DOC Marine Species Officer Hannah Hendriks says: “DOC has taken a sample from the whale for research purposes and are confident that its behaviour is normal. We did this in conjunction with NIWA, who have a special permit to be closer than 50m.”

The last reported sighting of southern right whales in Wellington Harbour was in 2010, so this sighting is rare.

Hannah says: “During the breeding season in winter and spring, these whales are mostly found in the waters around the sub Antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands. However, there are occasional sightings around mainland New Zealand.”

The New Zealand population is distinct from neighbouring populations in Australia.

“DOC is leaving it to do its own thing unless we see something to suggest there is something wrong with it. We’re working with the harbour master and the police to monitor people’s behaviour in its vicinity.”

Southern right whales can be recognised by their strongly arched mouth, lack of dorsal fin and V-shaped blowhole spray.

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