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N Z Vet J. 1981 Nov;29(11):192-3.

New Zealand's cetaceans and pinnipeds.

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Fisheries Research Division, Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, Wellington.


The 8 species of baleen whale in New Zealand waters range in length from 6 to 30+ metres, and the 25 species of toothed whale range up to 18 metres. A single porpoise species is known in New Zealand sub-Antarctic waters. The baleen whales and many of the toothed whales are migratory, and New Zealand straddles their well-defined routes: a combination which allowed whaling to flourish. The toothed whales are the more gregarious and may indulge in mass strandings. Current research aims to investigate the biology of all of the whale species. The otariid, or eared seals found in the New Zealand region are the New Zealand sealion and the New Zealand fur seal. The commonest of the phocid, or earless seals on the New Zealand coast are the elephant and leopard seals. All of these breed in the southern parts of the region but range further north. The fur seal population is rising slowly, but the small population size of the New Zealand sealion gives cause for concern. Marine mammals form an important part of the fauna of the New Zealand region, and veterinary knowledge and general research should be increased.

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