Warmer seas create a whale of time in New Zealand
land,” she says.
She was able to confirm the growing population thanks to recent scientific endeavours to tag the mammals to track their movements.
“As they recover in numbers we are seeing more humpbacks passing New Zealand. They go past our east and west coast.”
“I would like to go back and deploy some more satellite tags; perhaps the Oceanic whales are recovering slower because they migrate on a longer journey to their Australian cousins.”
Meanwhile, a southern right whale made Wellington Harbour its home, in the process causing the Matariki fireworks display planned for last weekend to be delayed.
On Saturday, a 17m sperm whale, weighing more than 30 tonnes, washed up on Marfells Beach, near Seddon.
On Monday, two “super-rare“pygmy right whales were found dead on Taupo¯ Bay in the Far North.
Department of Conservation marine ranger Cat Peters said the rare marine animals had only been sighted at sea 30 times.
Also on Monday, a pygmy sperm whale and its male calf stranded at Mahia beach. They both died.
Peters, of Russell, said an unusually high number of whale sightings this year is due to warmer sea temperatures and
easterly winds bringing the whale’s food closer to shore.
The sea temperatures also triggered a die-off of penguins this year.
In March, Sir Peter Blake Trust environmental programme mana- ger Bahkti Patel was involved in a project at the Kermadec Islands, one of the most densely populated meeting grounds for humpbacks in the Southern Hemisphere. At the islands they were able to collect skin samples and carry out testing to determine the whales’ gender, health and relations to other whales. Oceanic humpback populations are recovering, slowly but surely, she says. “Certainly we can be confident numbers are recovering — there are two population of humpbacks in this area. “The Oceania whales are recovering slower. Rochelle is looking if there a link to the longer migration of Oceania whales with the recovery rates we see.” It wasn’t until 2015 the whales were tagged and they were able to trace their movements.
Orca Trust founder and marine biologist Ingrid Visser says she has had several reports of a white humpback whale travelling north on the east coast.
A white humpback has been recorded in the Atlantic Ocean but Visser is 99 per cent sure the sightings would not be of that whale.
It is possible the new whale could be the offspring of Migaloo.
Visser says the new whale is either albino or leucistic, meaning it has white pigmentation.
The difference between the two is that albino animals have pink eyes while leucistic animals have black eyes, Visser says.
It is not yet known whether Migaloo is albino or leucistic.
Constantine will head to Antarctica in February with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research to find feeding humpbacks as well and tag them to track their migration patterns.
“In the next 20 years, humpbacks will be a sight that is not remarked on. It’s everyone’s goal. When we stopped whaling we were at the forefront,” she says.
Anyone sighting the white whale has been asked to report it to the Orca Research Trust on 0800 733 6722.
A rare white humpback whale Migaloo, top right, a southern right whale in Wellington Harbour this week and right associate professor Rochelle Constantine.