The Humpback Whale Migration

The spring season of 2014 has seen a large number of humpback whale sightings around the Fiordland coast. At this time of year whales are heading south to their Antarctic feeding grounds from their summer breeding grounds in the tropics.
Many reports have been received since October of both small and large groups of humpback whales travelling and feeding off the Fiordland coast. Reports have ranged in area from Milford Sound/Piopiotahi down to Dusky/Breaksea Sound, encompassing both outer coast waters and some inner fiord areas in Dusky Sound.
Humpback whale tail flukes can be used to identify individuals. Photograph courtesy of Chloe Corne

Humpback whales were sighted daily by the dolphin monitoring team in Dusky and Breaksea Sounds during the October monitoring trip, with feeding behaviour observed in and around Five Fingers Marine Reserve, Anchor Island and surrounds, and the Acheron. Photographs of their unique tail flukes and dorsal fins were obtained for the majority of the whales encountered, which enables researchers to identify individuals. By comparing photographs from previous years, one individual has been identified as having visited Fiordland waters every year since 2012. 

Chloe Corne, DOC Te Anau


If you see marine mammals whilst out in Fiordland, please contact Chloe or Richard at the Department of Conservation on 03 249 0200, or email with Date, Location and Species.



Travelling Humpback Whales – Photograph courtesy of Chloe Corne.