Marine Mammals

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Latest news

NIWA’s flagship research vessel Tangaroa leaves soon on a six-week voyage to Antarctica, making it one of the few full scientific expeditions to the continent since the global outbreak of COVID-19.
When scientists head south to Antarctica on board NIWA research vessel Tangaroa next month, they’ll be keeping a close eye out for an animal that is particularly good at staying out of sight.
Five specialist NIWA divers were left ‘gasping’ during their recent plunge under the ice near Scott Base.
Just past the locks, alarms and big heavy doors is a rather macabre sight.

Our work

The aim of this voyage was to examine the movement and habitat utilization of pygmy blue whales in New Zealand waters.
Māui dolphins, a subspecies of Hector’s dolphins, are listed as nationally critical in New Zealand with a population estimate between 57 and 75 dolphins over one year old.
The sounds of whales and dolphins rarely seen in New Zealand waters have been recorded in a pioneering underwater sound project.

The main breeding population of New Zealand sea lions at the Auckland Islands has halved in size since the late-1990s; NIWA scientists are working with the government and experts from around New Zealand and overseas to understand why.

Latest videos

Weddell seals - web
A NIWA-led team of marine ecologists are using seal-mounted cameras to get a first-hand view into the behaviour and movements of Weddell seals under the Antarctic ice.
Southern right whale observed in Wellington Harbour

On 4 July 2018 NIWA photographer Dave Allen took some close-up footage of a southern right whale seen surfacing in Wellington Harbour for several days. Dave worked alongside marine ecologist Kim Goetz, fisheries technician Pete Notman and Department of Conservation staff to take a biopsy sample for genetic analysis and acoustic recordings taken for NIWA's ongoing whale research.

Breakfast with Ebony - Episode 1

Plastic spoons aren’t always used for eating - fisheries scientist Dr Jim Roberts found them handy when studying sub-Antarctic sea lions. Find out just how in the first of our new series presented by our inquisitive mailroom administrator Ebony Barrett.

Pilot whale ((Globicephala sp.) calls detected by acoustic recorder stationed in Cook Strait, New Zealand
Pilot whale (Globicephala sp.) calls detected by acoustic recorder stationed in Cook Strait, New Zealand from December 2016 to January 2017.
A two-week expedition to tag blue whales in New Zealand waters for the first time, almost came up empty due to warmer sea temperatures causing the animals to change their behaviour.
Beachgoers are being asked to look out for leopard seals over summer and report sightings as soon as possible.
A leopard seal pup born off St Kilda beach, Dunedin, on Tuesday has been found to have only had 10 per cent of normal lung capacity.
A leopard seal has spent so much time in New Zealand waters she has prompted a NIWA scientist to challenge conventional thinking about the species.
The sounds of whales and dolphins rarely seen in New Zealand waters have been recorded in a pioneering underwater sound project.
Breakfast with Ebony - Episode 1

Plastic spoons aren’t always used for eating - fisheries scientist Dr Jim Roberts found them handy when studying sub-Antarctic sea lions. Find out just how in the first of our new series presented by our inquisitive mailroom administrator Ebony Barrett.

Māui dolphins, a subspecies of Hector’s dolphins, are listed as nationally critical in New Zealand with a population estimate between 57 and 75 dolphins over one year old.
Pilot whale ((Globicephala sp.) calls detected by acoustic recorder stationed in Cook Strait, New Zealand
Pilot whale (Globicephala sp.) calls detected by acoustic recorder stationed in Cook Strait, New Zealand from December 2016 to January 2017.
Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) in Cook Strait, New Zealand
Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) calls detected by acoustic recorder stationed in Cook Strait, New Zealand from December 2016 to January 2017.

The critically endangered Māui dolphin is getting a helping hand from scientists this month who are beginning a year-long research project to listen in on them.

Unique research records rare whale species in Cook Strait

The sounds of whales and dolphins rarely seen in New Zealand waters have been recorded by NIWA scientist in a pioneering underwater sound project. In 2016 NIWA marine ecologist Dr Kim Goetz led a programme to deploy seven acoustic moorings in Cook Strait that recorded the sounds of marine mammals for six months until they were retrieved in December.

The sounds of whales and dolphins rarely seen in New Zealand waters have been recorded by a NIWA scientist in a pioneering underwater sound project.

Great humpback whale trail
Here is an insight into what Auckland University’s whale research team is up to in The Kermadecs.
Over the last few days the “dive team” have been recording corals, fishes, urchins and other invertebrates from the shallow waters (0-30m) surrounding Raoul Island to complement the biodiversity records from the deeper ocean collected by the other scientists onboard.
New Zealand is lucky to have its own sea lion. They were nearly driven to extinction more than 150 years ago by the first human settlers and then by commercial sealing—a story shared with nearly all seals.

The main breeding population of New Zealand sea lions at the Auckland Islands has halved in size since the late-1990s; NIWA scientists are working with the government and experts from around New Zealand and overseas to understand why.

The sounds made by whales and dolphins as they pass through New Zealand’s Cook Strait are to be recorded for the first time through a research project being undertaken by a NIWA scientist.
NZ sea lion mystery
The main breeding population of NZ sea lions at the Auckland Islands has declined by approximately 50% since the late 1990s.
A tiny community of New Zealand sea lions on the Otago Peninsula is helping scientists solve the mystery of why some populations are doing better than others.
Now back on dry land, Voyage Leader Richard O'Driscoll reflects on the final days of RV Tangaroa's 2015 Antarctica expedition.
It has been another amazing week here on the Tangaroa. On Saturday we saw Antarctica which was an absolutely breath-taking experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life!
Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division explain the blue whale research they are leading onboard the New Zealand-Australia Antarctic Ecosystems Voyage 2015.
NIWA voyage leader Dr Richard O’Driscoll updates the Tangaroa’s encounter with the planet’s largest living beings – the Antarctic blue whales – and discovers what’s on their menu.
The first objective of the New Zealand- Australia Antarctic Ecosystems Voyage was successfully achieved with the completion of the research at the Balleny Islands.

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