Niue’s Humpback Whales are back!
Around 50 adult Humpbacks and their offspring enter Niue’s waters from July to October each year as they migrate north from Antarctica into warmer waters to mate, give birth and socialise – a 5000km trip.
Fiafia Rex, who is President of Oma TafuÄ, Niue’s local whale research NGO says the team has noticed a definite increase in the number of mother-and-calf “pods” arriving over the last two years. “We counted five different pods last year, and identified around 42 new individual whales. But also see a few repeat visitors, which we can recognise from the distinctive patterns on their fins or tail flukes.”
Fiafia says the whales don’t eat much during their Niue sojourn. “All the feeding is done in the Antarctic waters and they live off their accumulated fat stores while they’re here, though they may eat a little opportunistically – small fish and jellyfish for example.”
That need for the whales to conserve their food stores to feed their offspring and survive themselves is why the Niuean Government requires a conservative approach to interactions with the whales, says Fiafia. “If the boats get too close they can stress both mother and calf and waste their energy.”
She says the whales also enjoy a bit of karaoke while they’re in Niue. “They love singing and the underwater topography at certain parts around the island seems to provide amplification and reverb to send their vocals long distances.”
Niue Tourism Director of Marketing Felicity Bollen says Niue provides a perfect grandstand to view the whales from land – as close as 50 metres away at times. On-water viewing has been carefully managed over the last two years in line with the “Protect Pacific Whales – Ocean Voyagers” Campaign run by the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme and the island’s Whale Sanctuary Management Plan, which was established in 2005. “We want to ensure these magnificent creatures are introduced to tourism in a responsible and sustainable way.”
Niue’s three whale-watching tourism operators have undergone comprehensive training on whale behaviour and how to approach the whales, says Felicity. “Whale-watching regulations require all vessels to remain at least 50 metres from an adult whale and 100 metres from a pod containing a calf, and boats are prohibited from doing anything that is likely to cause an injury or distress to the whales or significantly disrupt their normal behavioural patterns.”
Private vessels arriving at Niue are also educated on how to interact responsibly with the whales, she says.
(Source: Media Release prepared & distributed by Wright Communications for Niue Tourism 13 July 2017)
The following registered tourism providers offer experiences with humpback whales:
Daily tours operate as demand requires and the 3-hour tours include educational presentations, with prices ranging from $150-180 per person.
For further information please contact:
Ron Murray, Wright Communications, tel, (09) 366 2452; mobile 027 807 7354; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Niue is a large upraised coral atoll 2400km and a 3.5-hour flight north-east of NZ, in the centre of a triangle formed by Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands. Located east of the international dateline, the island is serviced by Air NZ with two flights in and out a week and has a host of natural attractions including some of the clearest ocean water in the world, providing spectacular snorkeling, diving and fishing, forest and scenic walks and many small coves providing safe swimming. The island has a resident Niuean population of around 1600 people and is a self-governing nation aligned closely with NZ, with its own Parliament and Premier. To find out more about Niue please visit http://www.niueisland.com