TitleSeasonal occurrence and distribution of Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsWiseman, N, Parsons, S, Stockin, KA, C. Baker, S
JournalMarine Mammal Science
PaginationE253 - E267
Date Published10/2011

The Hauraki Gulf is a large, shallow embayment located north of Auckland City (36°51′S, 174°46′E), New Zealand. Bryde's whales (Balaenoptera edeni) are the most frequently observed balaenopterid in these waters. To assess the use of the Hauraki Gulf for this species, we examined the occurrence and distribution in relation to environmental parameters. Data were collected from a platform of opportunity during 674 daily surveys between March 2003 and February 2006. A total of 760 observations of Bryde's whales were recorded throughout the study period during 371 surveys. The number of Bryde's whales sighted/day was highest in winter, coinciding with the coolest median sea-surface temperature (14.6°C). Bryde's whales were recorded throughout the Hauraki Gulf in water depths ranging from 12.1–59.8 m (mean = 42.3, SD = 5.1). Cow–calf pairs were most frequently observed during the austral autumn in water depths of 29.9–53.9 m (mean = 40.8, SD = 5.2). Data from this study suggest Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf exhibit a mix of both “inshore” and “offshore” characteristics from the Bryde's whales examined off the coast of South Africa. Based on complete mitochondrial DNA sequences, Sasaki et al. (2006) recognized two sister species of Bryde's whales: Balaenoptera brydei and B. edeni, with the latter including small-type, more coastal Bryde's whales from Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia. Their samples and samples in previous analyses of small-type whales, all originated from eastern and southeastern Asia. These authors did not include the forms of Bryde's whales that occur in other regions, e.g., in the Pacific off Peru (Valdivia et al. 1981), in the Atlantic off Brazil (Best 1977) and in the western Indian Ocean off South Africa (Best 1977). Recent genetic analysis using mtDNA from the “inshore” and “offshore” forms from South Africa confirms the offshore form is B. brydei, and establishes that the inshore form is more closely related to B. brydei than to B. edeni (Penry 2010). These different forms do vary considerably in their habitat use and ecology (refer to Table 1 for a detailed comparison between the South African inshore and offshore forms, as described by Best (1967, 1977) and the Bryde's whales from New Zealand (Wiseman 2008). Recent genetic analysis on the Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf suggests they are B. brydei (Wiseman 2008). However, pending resolution of the uncertainty within and between species of this genus, we follow the Society of Marine Mammal's committee on taxonomy, who state that B. edeni applies to all Bryde's whales.