Wandering Whales - surveying migrating humpbacks in Cook Strait

Whales belong to a group of mammals called cetaceans, which also includes dolphins and porpoises. Of the 38 cetaceans known to inhabit New Zealand waters, 22 are whales.

The Cook Strait whale project aims to find out about the recovery of humpback whales in New Zealand waters. The surveys help scientists learn about the migration habits of these whales. Photographs taken of the whales are catalogued to identify individuals and estimate population sizes and movements. Genetic sampling is also carried out to determine the relationship between individuals seen in New Zealand and other populations. This information will be used for management and protection of humpback whales in the Southern hemisphere.

Commercial whaling in New Zealand ended in the 1960s. Ex-whalers from the last whaling station to be operated in New Zealand now use their skills to help spot whales for the project.

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