Sightings of whales, dolphins and seals around New Zealand can help us learn more about these animals. The more we understand them, the better able we are to protect them.
Sightings of the following animals are of particular importance:
Southern right whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction; and recovery for this species has been slow.
During the breeding season in winter and spring, southern right whales can be found in subantarctic waters around the Auckland and Campbell islands but there are occasional sightings of them around mainland New Zealand.
It’s possible that the whales seen around New Zealand could be from a separate population to those found in subantarctic waters. If this is the case, it would make the population of whales visiting the mainland extremely rare and they could need even greater protection.
Maui’s dolphins, a sub-species of the hector’s dolphin, are the world’s rarest and smallest marine dolphins. These animals are critically endangered and are at great risk. Any new information about these animals will help scientists and government make decisions on how best to protect them.
Beaked whales are extremely rare. Their deep-diving habits, along with the difficulty of identifying them except at close range, mean that beaked whales are among the least studied and understood of all whales.
How you can help
|DOC: 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468)
If you see a southern right whale, maui's dolpin or beaked whale, report it immediately. DOC will attempt to send a staff member out to verify your sighting as quickly as possible.
to download a copy of DOC's whale and dolphin sighting sheet.
If you can, please photograph the animal and note as much information as possible.
Some of the large whales can be identified by their blow, surfacing and diving characteristics. Use this chart as a quick reference guide to note important information.
- Body length. Try comparing to the length of the boat
- Body shape, colour and markings
- Shape and markings of the flukes (tail)
- Presence of a dorsal fin
- Shape, size and position of the dorsal fin
- Shape, size and position of flippers (pectoral fins)
- Size, shape and colour of the head
- Presence of a beak
- Blow characteristics. Height, shape and visibility of the blow
- Presence of teeth or baleen
- Surface behaviour, such as breaching or lobtailing
- Dive sequence, from surfacing to disappearance
When you contact DOC please give them:
- the date, time and location of the sighting (GPS coordinates if possible);
- the number of dolphins and whales and whether any are calves;
- the direction they were travelling; and
- your contact details
If you are lucky enough to spot a whale or dolphin at sea, be careful to follow New Zealand regulations for interacting with marine mammals. Click here
to find out more.