Right whale of New ZealandRight whale of New Zealand
Right whale of New Zealand

Common name Southern Right Whale

Distribution The Auckland Islands and Campbell Island south of New Zealand, are Southern right whales mating ground. Before whaling there were estimated to be 10,000 in the whole New Zealand region. In the 2000s there were probably about 250 and that is in the sub Antarctic islands. Around New Zealand’s mainland the few sightings made since the late 1990s suggest that there are fewer than 30 right whales in the population. The low numbers persist despite protection since 1935. Where the whales go from October to May is a mystery. Southern right whales used to occur as far north as the Kermadec Islands, along New Zealand’s coasts, and as far south as the subantarctic Auckland Islands and Campbell Island. Today they are rarely sighted around the mainland.

About Right whales were the most vulnerable of all the baleen whales as they were slow swimmers. They yielded more oil and floated when harpooned. The southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) is the baleen whale most closely associated with New Zealand because it used to come inshore to sheltered harbours to mate and calve. Other species of baleen whales were usually seen further out to sea as they migrated between their Antarctic feeding grounds and breeding grounds in warmer latitudes.