Seasonal occurrence and distribution of Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

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Abstract

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.

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