The Great Humpback Whale Trail

A humpback juvenile on a grey day off Raoul Island, Kermadecs

The Kermadec Isands are in the Ngāti Kuri rohe and the Board has been fully supportive of the 620,000 square km of Ocean Sanctuary that the government has just ratified.

Scientists from the University of Auckland, the Department of Conservation and other organisations are continually studying the incredible biodiversity of the islands.  Of particular interest is the fairly recent discovery that the Kermadecs are a key destination in the humpback whale’s migration path between their Antarctic feeding grounds and their sub-tropical breeding grounds.  Discoveries such as this may provide possible answers to reasons behind their slow recovery from near extinction caused by legal and illegal whaling operations which reduced their population to less than 1% of their pre-whaling abundance.

Ngāti Kuri were very supportive of these scientific expeditions in 2011 and again in 2015.  In acknowledgement of Ngāti Kuri’s Kaitiaki role and connectedness with the whales the scientists have made available their findings including regular updates showing the most recent satellite tracked migration path of whales tagged earlier this year.

Satellite Tagging Imagery

In an article on the 2015 expedition website the researchers explain that this work was undertaken by an international team of scientists from NZ, Australia, the USA and New Caledonia.  They went to Raoul Island used sophisticated non-lethal research techniques including genetic fingerprinting, photo-identification of whale flukes and recordings of whale song to track the gradual but slow recovery of Oceania’s endangered humpback whales on their southern migration. This research will be ground-breaking and it will dramatically enhance our knowledge of why these whales are still endangered.

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