The annual winter humpback whale count is underway in Cook Strait, but it is thought that this trip may be one of the last expeditions for the group of whalers. The annual survey has been going for 12 years by the Department of Conservation and is conducted from Marine Ecologist Nadine Bott’s base on Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds. While six former whalers helped with the survey, age has now caught up with them and this was the last year that the programme would have the benefit of their help.
The survey is designed to track trends in humpback whale population and it is timed around the species migration from Antarctic waters to South Pacific breeding grounds. While the whales feed in Antarctica during the summer, they make the long migration to the South Pacific in search of warmer temperatures for the Winter. A majority will pass through the cook straight on their journey up to the tropics where they will then breed, give birth and start their migration back.
The humpbacks which migrated through the Strait tended to head west to Australia and New Caledonia.