Rare sighting of white humpback whale

By Kimiora Kaire-Melbourne
  • Wellington
  • South Island

The Department of Conservation (DoC) spotted a rare white humpback whale in the Cook Strait yesterday.

DoC researchers were undergoing the Cook Strait Whale Survey when they saw the humpback whale, which is thought to be “Migaloo”, a white humpback usually seen off the shores of Australia.

The white humpback, which was seen swimming alongside another normal black humpback, was definitely a rare sight.

Survey leader, Nadine Bott says, "White humpbacks are extremely rare. Only four have been reported in the world."

DoC surveyers took DNA from the white humpback with a biopsy dart. This DNA will be analysed in order to identify whether it is Migaloo, and whether the whale is albino or whether the whiteness is due to some form of colour variation.

The annual whale survey, a DOC partnership with OMV New Zealand, saw a notably high count of humpback whales.  Up until the end of yesterday, 122 humpback whales were spotted, significantly higher than the highest total of 106 in 2012.

This is a positive indicator that the number of humpback whales in New Zealand waters is increasing.