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Southern right whale sightings – update

21 August 2012

Southern right whale sightings – update

Earlier today southern right whales were spotted off Auckland’s North Shore beaches. But following public accounts of a possible stranding, AUT University marine researcher Emma Beatson is pleased to report that mother and calf were found happily lazing off Milford Beach.

“We received various calls from the public this morning with reports of southern right whale sightings in shallow water off Brown’s Bay, and there was concern of risk of a possible stranding.

“This afternoon we encountered the mother-calf pair very close to shore off Milford Beach, and observed them in the vicinity of Black Rocks for approximately half an hour. The whales were not particularly active when we saw them, and seemed quite happy hanging out close to shore. They were navigating their way down the coastline well.”

Beatson says some photo-identification shots were taken which will hopefully be incorporated into the national sightings catalogue.

“Southern right whales are known to come very close to the shore, and use coastal habitats for calving. During the breeding season in winter and spring, they are mostly found in the waters around the sub-Antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands but there are occasional sightings around mainland New Zealand. There have been previous sightings of mother-calf pairs in the Hauraki Gulf, but they are considered rare and very special visitors.

“While in general the population of southern right whales in the Southern Ocean has been making a slow recovery from intense whaling pressure; recovery hasn't been apparent to the same extent around the New Zealand mainland.”

DOC is currently gathering sighting information from the public and using photo-identification and genetic samples to determine the population status of individuals seen around mainland New Zealand.

ENDS

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