By Guest Author 19/12/2017

The sounds of whales and dolphins rarely seen in New Zealand waters were recorded by a NIWA scientist in a pioneering underwater sound project. In March the first analysis of work undertaken by NIWA marine ecologist Dr Kim Goetz was revealed following the deployment of seven acoustic moorings in Cook Strait to record the sounds of marine mammals.

NIWA marine scientist Dr Kim Goetz with one of the passive acoustic monitors deployed in Cook Strait to record the sounds of whales and dolphins. [Photo: Dave Allen, NIWA]

Results showed that among more common whale species, the devices recorded vocalisations from Antarctic blue whales, Antarctic minke whales and several different beaked whale species that are rarely seen due to their extensive diving behaviour. These are likely to be the first recordings of Gray’s and strap-toothed beaked whales in New Zealand waters.

Dr Goetz said the project set out to look at what sounds could be heard in the waters of Cook Strait, in particular the man-made noise from vessels and industry, natural noise such as weather events and biological contributors such as whales and dolphins.

“Antarctic blues are coming into New Zealand waters. They have a very low frequency call so are being picked up further away but we’re really confident it’s not as far away as Antarctica.”

Dr Goetz says the data so far show that Cook Strait may be segregating different whale populations with Antarctic blues primarily heard on the east side.

“We have also picked up Antarctic minkes—it matches the time minkes are known to go into Australian waters but they have never been acoustically recorded here before.”

Sounds made by several whale species, including this Blue Whale, were recorded for the first time in Cook Strait. [Photo: Dave Allen]

This article was originally published on NIWA, as part of their Summer Series 2017