SEA WEEK 2021 – Our big neighbours in the South

Posted on March 7, 2021


Did you know that Taranaki has its very own blue whale population? That’s right, a bunch of the biggest animals ever live right on our southern doorstep, off the coast of South Taranaki. Our Blue Whales are so special they even have their very own whale song, which is unlike any other around the world.

Though scientists don’t yet know for sure, individual blue whales spend at least part of the year off south Taranaki and, since blue whale calls are recorded there year-round, there are blue whales off our southern coast most days of the year. Though it’s hard to know for sure, scientist think there could be 700 blue whales living in New Zealand, with a hotspot in south Taranaki (Picture).

So why do they hang out here? South Taranaki is a feeding ground for the Blue Whales. The way the ocean currents move makes it a perfect place for krill to thrive. Krill are blue whales favourite food; they eat them by sucking in a mixture of water and krill and filtering out the krill using their special teeth called baleen plates. Some blue whales may eat up to 6 tonnes of krill a day: that’s about the same weight an elephant.

Some facts about these amazing creatures: adult blue whales are longer than two buses, and can weigh up to 150 tonnes, which is 150,000 kg and is as heavy as one and a half Boeing 757 aeroplanes. Their tongues can weigh nearly as much as an elephant and their hearts can be as big as a small car. They can live up to 100 years, and swim all over the world, between feeding grounds (like south Taranaki) and places where they breed.  Long story short, they’re pretty special.

Because of hunting in the past, Blue Whales are endangered, but scientists think their numbers have been increasing since they were globally protected in 1966.

So what can you do to help protect our big southern neighbours? Since our backyard is their home, we can all help; pick up rubbish on the beach when you see it and don’t litter. If you are lucky enough to go boating and see a Blue Whale, keep at least 50 m distant (and follow the other rules in the link below), and report the sighting to DOC.