Satellite tracking of blue whales in New Zealand waters, 2018 voyage report
Kimberly Goetz, Simon Childerhouse, David Paton, Mike Ogle , Krista Hupman, Rochelle Constantine, Mike Double, Virginia Andrews-Goff, Alex Zerbini, Paula Olson
International Whaling Commission
Between 28 January and 10 February 2018, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and collaborators conducted a voyage to attach satellite tracking devices to pygmy blue whales in the Taranaki region of New Zealand. The aim of this voyage was to examine the movement of pygmy blue whales in New Zealand waters. This paper provides a summary of preliminary data collected during this research voyage. In total, we spend 72.51 hours (1637.54 km) actively searching for blue whales over 8 survey days. Eleven blue whale sighting events were made (16 total individuals). One sighing was a duplicate from the previous day, meaning that 14 animals were unique individuals. Other sightings included fin whales, common dolphins, Hector’s dolphins, and fur seals. Two satellite tags were successfully deployed and six skin/blubber samples were collected from four blue whales. Photo-identification data were collected for five individual blue whales. Overall, blue whales were found further south and in lower numbers than normally reported and were not seen surface feeding which is likely due to La Niña conditions which resulted in significantly different oceanographic conditions including water temperatures 4-6° warmer than normal, reduced west wind flows and a consequent reduction in productive upwellings in the Taranaki region and a significantly lower level of primary productivity than is normally expected in the region. All photo-identification data will be provided to the circumpolar Antarctic Blue Whale Catalogue and collaborations have been established with other researchers to share and compare data.