Posted by: The ocean update | May 31, 2016

Support ends for Department of Conservation annual Cook Strait whale survey (New Zealand)

White humpback whale Migaloo was spotted during the annual Cook Strait Whale Survey last year.

White humpback whale Migaloo was spotted during the annual Cook Strait Whale Survey last year.

May 31st, 2016 (Elena McPhee). An annual whale survey in Cook Strait will not be taking place this year because of a lack of funding.

The Cook Strait Whale Survey is run by the Department of Conservation and usually takes place in June and July.

A DOC spokeswoman said oil and gas exploration company OMV New Zealand had funded the survey for the past eight years.

The partnership was not renewed this year, but DOC was hoping to find a new partner for 2017.

OMV said it was awaiting a scientific paper that evaluated the whale survey project. It continued to work with DOC and iwi on a range of other programmes.

The survey cost $80,000 each year, the DOC spokeswoman said.

Marlborough man and former whaler Ron Perano said it was “a bloody shame” the survey was not going ahead this winter.

He and other retired whalers were looking at doing their own survey, but he did not know if it would happen or not, he said.

“There’s about six of us who have been involved in it. We’re just about all in our 80s,” Perano said.

Perano said he received a lot of inquiries about the whale survey.

“There’s a hell of a lot of interest in this project,” he said.

The survey included taking photographs of the underside of the whales’ tails and taking DNA samples of the whales so they could be identified, Perano said.

A record 137 humpbacks were spotted in the strait in 2015.

The survey had been running for 12 years.

It was initially funded entirely by DOC and lasted two weeks, but the funding provided by OMV allowed it to be extended to four weeks.

Missing this year’s survey would not have much impact on the data collected by DOC on humpback whales, the spokeswoman said.

She could not say what would happen if DOC could not secure another partner.

DOC had been grateful for OMV’s support, she said.

“This support has allowed valuable information to be gathered about humpback whales migrating through New Zealand waters, including that their numbers appear to be increasing, and that humpbacks seen off eastern Australia also move through our waters,” she said.

Results of a DNA test released earlier this year confirmed a white humpback whale seen in Cook Strait last year was the famous Migaloo, which had been seen off eastern Australia almost every year since 1991.

It was the first time Migaloo had been seen in New Zealand waters.

White humpbacks were extremely rare and only a handful had been reported in the world.

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