Sunday, June 9, 2013

Eyes Open In Cook Strait

The Cook Strait will be a hub of whale-watching activity over the next month, as Department of Conservation (DOC) researchers, former whalers and many other volunteers carry out the 10th. annual whale survey.
A record 106 humpback whales were counted in last year's 4wk.survey, with a second highest tally of 73 humpbacks the year before. It's hoped an upwards trend in humpback numbers will again be seen this year. Last year's survey also recorded the highest number of humpbacks in one day: 21 spotted on June 22.
The Cook Strait Whale Survey started yesterday and continues until Sat.July 6. It's been carried out annually since 2004, to assess humpback whale recovery since commercial whaling ended in New Zealand in 1964. It's timed for humpbacks' northern migration from Antarctic waters to South Pacific breeding grounds.
Seven former whalers have been part of the survey team from the outset, keenly putting their whalespotting skills and experience to use for the research which helps to protect whales in our waters.
Information to identify individual whales is gathered by approaching whales in boats, endeavouring to take photos and get skin samples using a biopsy dart tool. These are checked against photos and genetic samples from whales across the South Pacific to see if any match. The identification information to date shows some humpback whales, migrating through NZ waters, are also seen off the east coast of Australia and around New Caledonia.

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