Seen a southern right whale? We want to know!

Reuben Williams —  08/06/2010

We’re calling on the public to report any sightings of southern right whales along the coastline of New Zealand. So if you see one, let us know!

The fluke of a southern right whale.

The fluke of a southern right whale.

A sighting near the beach at Te Angiangi, in the Hawkes Bay region has signalled the start of this year’s whale migration season and the beginning of the Department of Conservation’s southern right whale research programme.

This is a great opportunity for the public to see large whales on the coast, and also it’s a great chance to help out with our whale research.

The sightings help support the Otago University research programme that is looking into photo identification and habitat use of these animals. 

Scientists get up close and personal with a southern right whale!

Scientists get up close and personal with a southern right whale!

This research is important as it helps us to track the recovery of the southern right whale population, and to better understand the relationship between the whales seen around the mainland and those from the New Zealand subantarctic region.

Data analysed so far by scientists at the University of Auckland, has shown that there have been three matches between the mainland and subantarctic whales. Choice!

The continuation of this research will enable the Department to take measures to ensure the whales have the right level of protection.

They are mostly black in colour and can be identified by their lack of a dorsal fin, a V-shaped blowhole spray, and white growths on their heads called callosities. 

DOC needs to know the date, time and location of the sighting; the number of whales; whether there were any calves; and their direction of travel.

Any southern right whale sightings should be reported immediately on the DOC hotline: 0800 DOCHOT (0800 36 24 68) and recorded using a Marine mammal sighting form.

A couple of southern right whales.

A couple of southern right whales.


10 responses to Seen a southern right whale? We want to know!


    Whale in bay at Karitane on Sunday 1st July. Sorry, unable to determine what species. He/she wasn’t frollicing – just coming up for air every nown again. We sighted only one at any one time, but was told other folk had spotted two adults and a calf. Have photos but not very informative. No sign of them whilst I was there today.


    These are actually not my personal experiences, but I found some intresting sightings on internet. I wonder if you are aware of them.

    2 pods of 5 or more whales off Otago coast

    2 animals off North Otago coast.



      Hi Daniel,

      We’ll enter these two sightings into our database. They’re not currently recorded there, so thanks for passing the information on.

      We’re still very keen to hear about southern right whale sightings. If you do spot one, take photos (if you can) and call the DOC HOTline (0800 362 468) immediately. The information we get helps us determine things like population sizes, breeding rates and movement patterns. Ultimately this helps us to look after them.

      Find out more:

    Lesley Campbell 03/10/2010 at 10:29 am

    Southern Right and calf seen off Moeraki Saturday 2 October 7pm. Heading South at a sedate pace. Sighting form completed.

      Melanie Charters 07/10/2010 at 1:03 pm

      Fantastic! That must have been a special sight!
      Thanks for letting us know.


    Hi Fraser,

    Thanks for yor message. Researchers are still attempting to answer your questions and many others like it. It seems that it is the combination of threats to marine mammals that is the real issue. For example; rising water temps; access to food sources; disease; the impacts of the fishing industry, etc. I believe that managing these threats effectively is the key to marine mammal conservation is NZ.

    My challenge to you is to get involed, contact you local DOC office and be part of this work. Next week


    If ot heats up a lot more and plankton die what will whales feed on?

    Carrie Barron 27/07/2010 at 4:03 pm

    southern right with calf with us all day Sunday and returned this morning (Tuesday 27/7) still here and happily wandering about – Mahinepua Bay – between Matauri Bay and Whangaroa in the Far North – lots of photos (altho not brilliant) if anyone wants to see them