Saint Clair's Southern Right Whales

Tohora , Eubalaena australis

Some of you may know that Southern Right whales (or Tohora, in our native tongue) are seen occasionally from the mainland coast of New Zealand, but you have to be pretty lucky to spot any and if you've seen some yourself, or heard of it in the past, they're mostly just fleeting moments. This week has been a buzz at St Clair with a pair that have not only visited, but seem to be hanging around to enjoy the mild winter weather. A native migrant to New Zealand, Tohora range mainly between 20°S and 55°S and travel into calmer coastal waters during end of Winter and early Spring for mating (romance). The uncharacteristically small surf conditions we've had for this season are potentially part of the reason they're in so close right now, and as their visits here have been on days with flat water and calm winds, we hope to see them back tomorrow when the swell drops off again! We will be posting alerts on Facebook and Instagram if we see any sign of activity so you don't miss this very special thing. The only places where New Zealand's right whales can be found consistently and in reasonable numbers are at the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island. 


The stories of old with Whales being hunted here in Otago send chills down the spine, and it seems hard to fathom either the whalers practice, or the whales themselves being 'viable' creatures to hunt. Strangely though this was a key component of The Early European Settlement here, as these whales were highly prized by whalers for their oil (used for heating and lighting) and whalebone (or baleen), which was made into corsets and parasols. The industry grew particularly strong in Otago between 1830-1850 until the whales were hunted to the brink of extinction, with estimates around 70 and as low as 30 individuals being left. The name 'Right Whale' echos eerily the ideas of the time, with these lovely creatures being the 'right' whale to hunt as they're slow-paced swimmers (travelling no more than 9 kilometres per hour), they were easy to catch; they supplied larger quantities of oil than other species; when harpooned they floated rather than sank.

Protection for these whales in New Zealand Waters has been in place since 1937, and good news for everyone is that these coastal sightings appear to be becoming more common. The New Zealand population is thought to be now increasing at about 5% per year! Long may they return! 

Whale Footage and DOC interview


Eubalaena australis

For more information on our friendly Southern Right Whales, click the link below.

Hydro Surf Shop

Thanks to these websites for their information:

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