Article

Near‐shore distribution and abundance of dolphins along the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand

New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research - N Z J MAR FRESHWATER RES 01/1998; 32(1):105-112. DOI: 10.1080/00288330.1998.9516809

ABSTRACT Compared to other stretches of the New Zealand coast, very little is known about the cetacean fauna off the West Coast of the South Island. The purpose of this paper is to describe the near‐shore distribution and abundance of dolphins in that area by summarising the results of two major studies. Between February 1995 and February 1997, 97 day trips were undertaken from Westport, Greymouth, and Jackson Bay in a small boat to survey the near‐shore distribution of dolphins. Between July 1994 and February 1997, 283 field days were spent on the water in Doubtful Sound studying the local bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) population of c. 63 individuals. At the same time, three longer surveys were undertaken into other fiords of Fiordland which indicated the presence of further populations. Altogether, five delphinid species were recorded in various abundances. Small‐medium‐sized groups of Hector's dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) with 1–60 individuals were observed in almost all areas of Westland in winter as well as in summer. Maximum densities peaked at 5–18 individuals per nautical mile of coastline between Cape Foulwind and Hokitika. Dusky and common dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus and Delphinus delphis) occurred almost exclusively in summer in groups of 2–150 individuals, often with calves, especially at Cape Foulwind and Jackson Head. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and killer whales (Orcinus orca) were observed rarely off Westland, but occurred more frequently in Fiordland.

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