Last year’s satellite tracked whales showed us that history was not a great guide to understanding how tohorā use their environment today. Whalers in the 19th century caught great numbers of tohorā in summer and spring to the east and north of Aotearoa New Zealand. However, none of the whales we satellite tracked in 2020 went there – instead they went as far south as Antarctica and as far west as the Indian Ocean (see https://www.tohoravoyages.ac.nz/ for their tracks).
Bill or Wiremu, a tohorā satellite tagged in August 2020, completed a whole migratory cycle and came back close to the Auckland Islands in June 2021. With his record breaking satellite tag still going as of July 2021, we can see Bill/Wiremu is heading southwest again, following a very similar path to last year’s migration.
We have now satellite tagged 10 whales this season. The last whale we tagged was a friendly whale that swam under and around the boat until it popped up in front of us in the perfect position to put a tag on. Of the 10 satellite tagged whales, indications are that two of them are already starting to follow Bill/Wiremu southwest to feed.
I had hoped that knowledge of those foraging areas to the north and east of Aotearoa New Zealand as good foraging grounds was still held by some of the population. However, perhaps it has been lost when whaling decimated the population. Or perhaps these northerly foraging grounds are known to only a few whales today. As we satellite tag less than one percent of the current population, perhaps we’re just yet to follow the whales that know that particular area. In any case, I’m excited to follow the voyages of the 2021 satellite tracked whales – who knows what surprises they will have for us this year!