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Whale sightings a privilege on Napier’s doorstep

Orca in Hawke Bay photo credit Whale Watch HB

Napier locals frequenting the Westshore and Ahuriri coastlines have the privilege of witnessing whales and dolphins, some of the world’s most majestic marine mammals, right on their doorstep.

Orcas and Common dolphins are the most common species widely spotted from the shorelines of Marine Parade, Hardinge Road, Perfume Point, Westshore and beyond, much to the delight of coastal residents and passers-by.

Chris Wootton, a Senior Ranger for Department of Conservation (DOC) in Napier, says the marine mammals’ movements are predominantly to do with chasing prey.

“Different species have different migration patterns, but orcas are in the locality year-round, moving around the coastline following food. When we see them around Napier Port and the estuary it’s usually because they are targeting stingray,” Chris says.

Sightings of whales and dolphins in Hawke Bay are often reported on the Whale Watch Hawke’s Bay Facebook page. Napier local, Liv Jack, established the page in 2016 to provide a direct channel for people to get up-to-date information on marine mammals sighted in the area. It has since gained over 7000 followers.

As well as shoreline sightings, Liv says her page gets a lot of information sent in from fisherman that others wouldn’t normally know about.

“Thanks to the boaties, we are now aware of a wider variety of visiting ocean life.

“We are incredibly lucky to have the experiences we do here in Hawke’s Bay. We are beyond grateful to those who let us know of sightings and keep us up to date.”

Chris agrees, adding “It’s great that there is so much public interest. These frequent sightings are a great reminder that we have a big marine area offshore of Hawke’s Bay and a large amount of bio-diversity out there.”

DOC encourages anyone who is lucky enough to see whales, dolphins, NZ fur seals (with tags) or other seal species from shore, to appreciate them from a distance and always keep dogs on a leash.

If marine mammals are spotted at sea, boaties should keep 300 metres away, abstain from circling them, obstructing their path and swimming with them.

“We also really want people to report their sightings via the DOC website or the 0800 number (0800 362 468) to assist us in monitoring population sizes, breeding rates and movement patterns.

“Local fishermen are out at sea more often than we are, so we depend on them for sighting information. Photos are also really important in providing valuable information.

“We’re particularly keen to hear about sightings of Māui dolphins, which are critically endangered and only found in New Zealand waters. They have a rounded fin on their back and are very small in comparison to the common dolphin.”

To protect our local marine life and to ensure we continue to enjoy these wonderful creatures visiting our coast, Chris emphasises the importance of keeping your distance from all wildlife, controlling dogs and keeping rubbish out of waterways by always putting it in rubbish bins or taking it home with you.

“If everyone does their bit to keep rubbish out of our oceans we will continue to enjoy an abundance of marine mammal and wildlife activity in our local waters for years to come,” Chris says.

18 March 2021

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