Pygmy blue whale

Leigh Torres

Latin name: Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda

Until recently blue whales in New Zealand were considered migrants, but research by Dr. Leigh Torres has now confirmed that a genetically distinct population of blue whales is present year-round in New Zealand waters. Additionally, their main feeding ground overlaps with the country’s most industrial marine region where there is prominent oil and gas industry, heavy shipping traffic, and the country’s first seabed mine. The research by Dr. Torres and her collaborative team has led to political demand for a marine mammal sanctuary in this region to protect blue whales and their habitat. 

Did you know? This blue whale foraging ground is one of five documented in the Southern Hemisphere outside the Antarctic.


Torres, L.G. IC, EA, A, F, W 2013. Evidence for an unrecognized blue whale foraging ground in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 47(2): 235-248; Torres, L.G. $, IC, EA, A, F, W, P.C. Gill, B. Graham, D. Steel, R. M. Hamner, C.S. Baker, R. Constantine, P. Escobar-Flores, P. Sutton, S. Bury, N. Bott, and M. Pinkerton. 2015. Population, habitat and prey characteristics of blue whales foraging in the South Taranaki Bight, New Zealand. Scientific Report to the International Whaling Commission, May 2015.