First sighting of humpback whale in Akaroa Harbour

Press Release – Black Cat Cruises

A large humpback whale was spotted by passengers and tourists aboard Black Cat Cruises Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise at about 1pm yesterday (Monday, May 15).MEDIA RELEASE

16 MAY 2017

First sighting of humpback whale in Akaroa Harbour

A large humpback whale was spotted by passengers and tourists aboard Black Cat Cruises’ Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise at about 1pm yesterday (Monday, May 15).

“This is the first sighting we have had of a humpback whale this year,” said Black Cat Cruises skipper Chris Jenkins.

Jenkins was skippering the Swimming With Dolphins vessel when the Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise team radioed in the sighting of a large marine mammal outside the Akaroa headlands.

Jenkins guided the vessel to the location so guests could watch the large humpback whale from a safe distance.

“For the last few years, we haven’t run our dolphin swim experience in the winter months so we would often miss humpback whale sightings,” he said.

“We are so happy to have experienced this rare sighting and look forward to many more as they start to migrate north for winter. We are now swimming all year round again.”

Black Cat Cruises Marketing Manager Natasha Lombart was aboard the boat and described the encounter as “simply amazing”.

“We watched in awe as this beautiful whale cruised past. We couldn’t predict his age but we could tell from his distinct markings that he was not a juvenile humpback whale,” she said.

“We also had the most dolphins I’ve ever seen on a swim experience in four years. This coupled with the humpback whale and an albatross sighting on a warm autumn day was just the best we could ask for.”

Humpback whales are frequent visitors to New Zealand’s coastal waters. They migrate between summer feeding grounds in Antarctica and winter breeding grounds in tropical waters.

The Oceania population of humpback whales has been classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 2008.

Humpback whales have a small dorsal fin with a distinctive hump at the front, and knobbly protuberances on the head, tip of the lower jaw and leading edge of extremely long flippers. Their tail flukes are broad and have a unique black-and-white pattern, which allow individuals to be identified. They have a variable colour, but are generally black with white on the underside and on the flippers.

Newborn humpback whales are between four and five metres in length, while adults range between 11.5 to 15 metres, according to the Department of Conservation.

The Akaroa Harbour Swim with Dolphins experience, hosted by Black Cat Cruises, was recently voted the number one wildlife activity in New Zealand by Experience Oz + NZ.

Highlights include sightings of the extremely rare and endangered Hector’s Dolphin, as well as penguins and other sea birds. Cruises depart every day, weather permitting.

The Hector’s Dolphin is grey with distinctive black and white markings and a round dorsal fin. It is native to New Zealand waters.

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· Black Cat Cruises has been in business for over 30 years and has enjoyed huge growth in passenger numbers over that time. In its first year, in 1985, Black Cat carried fewer than 3000 passengers, but that annual number is now more than the 3.5 million.

· Black Cat Cruises is backed by Queenstown-based tourism operator Real Journeys, which has a 50 per cent shareholding in the company.

· Black Cat Cruises also operates a Diamond Harbour Ferry service.

· Black Cat Cruises was the first eco-tourism operator in Canterbury to receive Sustainable Marine Mammal Actions in Recreation and Tourism (SMART) certification from the Department of Conservation (DOC) in 2015.

SMART is a voluntary collaboration between commercial boat operators and the DOC for the protection of marine mammals in New Zealand. It aims to promote responsible behaviour around dolphins, whales and seals by boat operators.

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