Humpback whales migrate between Antarctica and the south pacific, often passing by NZ during their migration. They spend their summers in the rich waters of Antarctic feeding on krill and small fish. Then they migrate to warmer south pacific where they will have their calves. This northern migration happens in June to July as the whales travel north past NZ , often passing along the east coast and Tauranga after crossing through the Cook Strait.
This migration offers a brilliant opportunity to survey of the humpback whale population, as Humpback whales pass through the cook straight they are counted and identified. They can be identified by their distinctive dorsal fin and the black and white colouring on their flukes (Tails). It is exciting to see the population growing now whales in New Zealand are protected.
The 2015 survey has just been completed and we have a new record :) 137 humpback whales have been spotted in the cook strait crossing !!!! This is by far the highest population recorded in NZ in many years and shows a huge growth in the population.
This survey was extra special, as a tiny baby less than a week old was seen measuring 3-4m in length. This is only the second time a baby has been spotted in NZ since the surveys began in 2004. I'm sure anyone who has been out with us when we have encountered a baby dolphin can agree they are so special to see !! :)
They also spotted the famous Australian Migaloo, a completely white humpback whale. There are only 4 white humpback in the world and 2 of these are Migaloo's offspring so this is a very exciting find. White humpback whales are thought to live as long as any other (50 years) though what brings on this white colouration is still unknown.
Humpback whales are most famous for their spectacular breaching out of the water and their complex songs which can be 20 minutes in length and be repeated for over 24 hours !!