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Teaming up to feed a Kiwi icon

Jason van Santen feeding the hoiho

Fisheries New Zealand is teaming up with Sealord and the Wildlife Hospital Trust to get fish to hungry hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins) during the Alert Level 4 restrictions.

The hospital approached Fisheries New Zealand looking for fish as its usual suppliers were operating at limited capacity. After putting the word out to industry, Sealord offered to donate 37 boxes (about one tonne) of Southern blue whiting.

Hospital trust manager Jordana Whyte said the donation would be put to good use.

“We can only feed the penguins certain types of fish, which are ideally small, thin and whole. The Sealord donation ticked all those boxes,” Ms Whyte said.

“Between the eight penguins in the Hospital and 28 in rehab at Penguin Place, the hoiho are cranking through a 25kg box of white fish per day.

“We don't generally have trouble keeping our patients' food supply going, but Covid-19 has presented all kinds of challenges.

The Wildlife Hospital is a veterinary facility, which has been operating throughout the lockdown, and is currently treating eight injured hoiho. Once medically cleared, the hoiho will then be transferred to Penguin Place for rehabilitation before being released.

Some of the hospital’s regular suppliers were operating at limited capacity because of the lockdown, says Hospital Trust manager Jordana Whyte.

The fish were delivered last week by MPI’s Dunedin-based Fisheries Officers Courtney Burn and Gareth Manson.

MPI Senior Fisheries Analyst Mark Geytenbeek said, “It’s a real pleasure to play our part in helping the hospital do its part to protect this iconic New Zealand species.”

Sealord Chief Operating Officer Doug Paulin said the company was fortunate to have a supply of Southern blue whiting, which suits the requirements of hoiho.

“We were really happy to support the penguins and the Wildlife Hospital, which does great work. We knew we had access to fish suitable for hoiho, so it was just a matter of making it happen. We’ve been supporting a number of causes and communities across New Zealand facing challenges due to COVID-19. It shows even animals are not immune to the impact,” he said.


Hoiho, yellow-eyed penguins, are an endangered species. There are two populations of hoiho in New Zealand.

A suitable diet for hoiho comprises key species of fish and squid. Blue and red cod, opal fish and sprat have all been shown to be important foods for them. Penguins in care are generally fed a mix of salmon and white fish such as whiting or silverside.


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