Whales in the Hauraki Gulf could be safer from ship strike with new measures likely to be introduced in the next few months.
It should help reduce the risk to whales like the southern right whale and her calf seen off Rodney beaches. The two were at Arkles Bay and Little Manly last week, then in Omaha Bay before heading to Goat Island and on to Pakiri Beach.
Miriam Godfrey photographed the pair on Sunday while on a sightseeing helicopter flight over Omaha Beach with her husband, Doug, and friends Steve and Pam Taylor.
Leigh marine photojournalists Jenny and Tony Enderby headed for the beach on Tuesday after a sighting, as did Algies Bay wildlife cameraman Steve Hathaway, filming for the New Zealand Natural History Unit.
The southern right whale once numbered in the tens of thousands until it was decimated by whaling through the 1800s. By the time they became protected in 1936 they were on the verge of extinction.
The shallow-water loving gentle giants have reappeared during the past four winters, travelling as far as the Bay of Islands before heading home around the southern Auckland Islands in spring.
More are likely to venture north but at some risk as they pass through Auckland shipping lanes. A resident population of about 50 Bryde's whales regularly play dodgems with ships. Research by University of Auckland's Rochelle Constantine shows that of the 41 Bryde's whales killed in the last 23 years, 83 per cent died as a result of vessel strike, the remainder dying after tangling in fishing gear.
Ports of Auckland is sympathetic to their plight, DOC marine mammal specialist Martin Stanley says. He, DOC biodiversity programme manager Phil Brown and Dr Constantine talked about ship strikes on whales to Ports of Auckland managers and commercial shipping representatives. That includes possible measures to reduce strikes.
First up is an early warning sighting system. Commercial whale watch and ferry operators and Auckland and Massey University researchers on the water would swiftly communicate whale positions to Ports of Auckland. These will be forwarded to vessels advising them to increase watches and slow down.
Meanwhile, a pod of about 20 dolphins also caused a stir at Orewa beach this week.
A swimmer got the fright of his life when he was suddenly surrounded by dolphins which came very close, almost touching him.
- © Fairfax NZ News