Blue whales sighting to 2013 in the South Taranaki Bight, New Zealand

Latest version published by The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) on 11 July 2024 The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)

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Blue whale distribution in the Southern Hemisphere is poorly understood. Their survival is dependent on the ability to reliably encounter large aggregations of euphausiid prey. Therefore, documenting and protecting blue whale foraging grounds is fundamental to enhancing their recovery. Various data sources are compiled here to support the hypothesis that the South Taranaki Bight, between the north and south islands of New Zealand, is used as a foraging ground by blue whales for a common euphausiid prey that aggregate as a function of a nearby coastal upwelling system.

It is difficult to distinguish between an Antarctic and pygmy blue whale without genetic analysis and therefore sightings and strandings in the STB region were not recorded to subspecies. Hereafter, the term ‘blue whale’ refers to both subspecies in the Southern Hemisphere unless otherwise described to subspecies.

Data Records

The data in this occurrence resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 51 records.

This IPT archives the data and thus serves as the data repository. The data and resource metadata are available for download in the downloads section. The versions table lists other versions of the resource that have been made publicly available and allows tracking changes made to the resource over time.


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How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Torres L G (2024). Blue whales sighting to 2013 in the South Taranaki Bight, New Zealand. Version 1.0. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Occurrence dataset. https://nzobisipt.niwa.co.nz/resource?r=bluewhale_forgaging_stbnz&v=1.0


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 4.0) License.

GBIF Registration

This resource has been registered with GBIF, and assigned the following GBIF UUID: 1c015688-44a2-4de3-bb88-1995eac2180a.  The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by GBIF New Zealand.


Occurrence; Observation


Leigh G. Torres
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
Marine Ecologist
National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research
Private Bay 14901, Kilbirnie
6241 Wellington

Geographic Coverage

South Taranaki Bight, New Zealand

Bounding Coordinates South West [-43.509, 170.23], North East [-34.755, 176.963]

Taxonomic Coverage

Blue whales

Species Balaenoptera musculus

Temporal Coverage

Start Date / End Date 1893-01-21 / 2012-05-03

Sampling Methods

Within this region, blue whale sighting and stranding records were compiled to examine the frequency, seasonality and persistence of blue whale presence. Modern (since 1979) records of blue whale sightings within the STB from the following sources of cetacean sighting records were examined: (1) a database curated by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) in which each sighting is validated; (2) sightings recorded by trained observers aboard transiting ships between New Zealand and overseas ports collated between 1979 and 1999; (3) sightings recorded by scientists and vessel captains at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA) and photo verified by the author (L. Torres unpubl. data); (4) sightings recorded during two recent seismic surveys with on-board marine mammal observers in the STB between 9 May and 22 July 2011, which consisted of 519.7 h of visual surveys (Blue Planet Marine); and (5) anecdotal sightings by a tugboat captain and a DOC ranger in October 2007, which were followed-up with personal conversations.

Study Extent The South Taranaki Bight (STB) encompasses 55,835 km2 and lies between the north and south islands of New Zealand (38°49'S to 40°53'S, 171°37'E to 175°13'E)

Method step description:

  1. Additionally, the distribution and density of incidental blue whale sightings from the DOC and Cawthorn datasets were compared between the STB and all of New Zealand. Geographic locations for all these sightings were recorded on-site by the observers. Also investigated were stranding records of blue whales within the STB and all of New Zealand held in the DOC whale stranding database.

Bibliographic Citations

  1. Torres, L. (2013). Evidence for an unrecognised blue whale foraging ground in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 47(2), 235–248. doi.org/10.1080/00288330.2013.773919

Additional Metadata

marine, harvested by iOBIS