DOC is on the lookout for southern right whales

29 Apr 2013

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is asking public to report any sightings of southern right whales migrating along the coast this season.

The annual southern right whale migration runs from May through to October when the whales head to protected shallow water.  The whales can be sighted anywhere from the subantartic islands to as far north as the east coast of Northland.

“Sighting reports are important because they help researchers understand the whales migrating patterns,” said DOC’s Marine Advisor, Laura Boren.

Video and images of southern right whales are incredibly valuable to researchers as they help confirm which whales are on the move around mainland New Zealand. 

“As we learn more about them we gain an understanding what we need to do to protect the magnificent creatures,” said Boren.

Southern right whale sightings can be reported to 0800 DOCHOT (0800 36 24 68). In addition the public can email images or vides of sightings to

The species were hunted to the brink of extinction but a recent report by the University of Auckland and the University of Otago confirmed an increase in numbers of southern right whales around mainland New Zealand.  

The report also confirmed that the same whales that have been seen in New Zealand have been sighted in the subantarctic islands. 


Laura Boren, DOC Science Marine Advisor, Phone 04 471 3062

Reuben Williams, Media Advisor, Mobile 0272572216






Additional Information


Southern right whale sightings can be reported to 0800 DOCHOT (0800 36 24 68). In addition you can email images of your sighting to 

Southern right whales are usually black, have a v-shaped blowhole spray and have no dorsal fin

Adults can average up to 14.5 metres in length.  Often cow and calf pairs are sighted as well as individuals

They have white growths on their heads called callosities.  

This is the most useful part of a whale to photograph because each whale has a unique pattern of callosities.  Photos of the left side of the whale are best

If you encounter whales please abide by marine mammal protection regulations and remember to keep a distance of 50m from the whale, and 200m if a calf is present.

A recent paper by Auckland University and Otago University scientists appears online ahead of print in the latest issue of Marine Mammal Science at: