Ecology · New Zealand · video

Southern right whale in Wellington Harbour

The importance of the presence of a southern right whale in Wellington Harbour should not be overstated. A report, following the establishment of an ID collection system, suggests there were probably just 15-20 mature female southern right whales surviving in a New Zealand population. A more recent study and others suggest there may only be 4-11 breeding females in NZ population; and that it’s possible only 1 female survived the whaling days, the few we have today being of her line. Original report here Part 1 and Part 2 (2103).

We should definitely be excited about the visitor in Wellington harbour when you realise how close we came to wiping them out. Estimates are that between 35 000 and 41 000 southern right whales were killed in New Zealand waters between 1827 – 1980 (< 80% killed between 1830 – 1850), and places as the current population at about 110 individuals.

If this whale does follow historic behaviours in the harbour there is potential it will be here for several months…

Further reading:
Southern Right Whales – Acoustics and Photo ID
Southern right whales back from brink of extinction

Additional information here gleaned from Alison Ballance and Rob Suisted


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