Humpback whale sightings around New Zealand 1970-1999

Latest version published by Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node on 19 December 2019 Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node

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Data as a DwC-A file download 152 records in English (10 KB) - Update frequency: not planned
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Humpback whales were almost taken to extinction by intensive whaling activities during the past century. In Area V, an original population of approximately 10 000 humpbacks at the beginning of the century had been reduced to less than 5%, or estimated 250-500 whales of the original population(Chittleborough 1965). Humpbacks were given total protection from commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1966 and presently have an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status of Vulnerable (Donoghue 1994). Although protected, subsistence hunting of humpbacks continued in Tonga until 1979 when whaling was prohibited by Royal Decree; and in Antarctica by illegal Russian whaling of approximately 47 000 humpbacks, which continued until the 1980s (Donoghue 1994,Yablokov 1994).

While some humpback whale populations have been widely studied, others including the population that migrates along the New Zealand coast are little known since the cessation of commercial whaling. Following the closure of Tory Channel whaling station in 1964, humpbacks have rarely been sighted in New Zealand waters (Helweg et al. 1999), suggesting that this migratory population has not shown any significant recovery, although Cawthorn (1997) reported an apparent increase in New Zealand waters. Due to the differences in population structure between areas, knowledge derived from one ocean or population cannot easily be applied to others.

This dataset represents a compilation of all sightings of humpback whales around New Zealand within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

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 152 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.


The table below shows only published versions of the resource that are publicly accessible.

How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Gibbs, N; Childerhouse, S., 2000. Data from: Humpback whales around New Zealand. Conservation Advisory Science Notes No. 257,Department of Conservation, Wellington


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node. 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: 7d122ae7-ef18-42a7-a0d4-bf4540826dbc.  Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by Ocean Biodiversity Information System.


Occurrence; Observation


Nadine Gibbs
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
Department of Conservation
P.O. Box 10-420
Simon Childerhouse
  • Point Of Contact
Department of Conservation
P.O. Box 10-420

Geographic Coverage

New Zealand EEZ

Bounding Coordinates South West [-49, 165], North East [-34, 180]

Taxonomic Coverage

Humpback whale

Species Megaptera novaeangliae (Humpback whale)

Temporal Coverage

Start Date / End Date 1970-01-01 / 1999-12-31

Sampling Methods

Collation of sighting information was achieved through detailed literature searches of published and unpublished work and contacting people through phone interviews and email. These sources included: (1) existing sighting sheets from relevant Department of Conservation (DOC) conservancies/field centres and Ministry of Fisheries scientific observers; (2) vessel log books from fishermen; (3) whale-watching tour operators and commercial spotter plane pilots; (4) whale researchers; (5) public; (6) media reports; (7) whale stranding records from Te Papa/Museum of New Zealand; (8) published papers and reports.

Study Extent New Zealand EEZ

Method step description:

  1. All the sighting information that was collected was entered into an MS Excel spreadsheet and analysed to determine: (1) locations of sightings; (2) date and seasonality of sightings; (3) composition of sightings (i.e. singles, groups, cow-calf pairs), (4) common behavior states (i.e. feeding, traveling, nursing, surface active).

Bibliographic Citations

  1. https://www.doc.govt.nz/globalassets/documents/science-and-technical/cas287a.pdf
  2. https://www.doc.govt.nz/globalassets/documents/science-and-technical/cas287.pdf

Additional Metadata

marine, harvested by iOBIS