Nearly 50 blue whales have been observed regularly feeding in the sea between the top of the South Island and lower Taranaki.
NIWA marine ecologist Dr Leigh Torres is leading a team of blue whale researchers in the Bight on a journey that aims to collect critical data to enhance understanding of the blue whale population in the region.
Last year, Dr Torres published a scientific paper that discussed the possibility of a blue whale foraging ground in the South Taranaki Bight. Her research showed the presence of blue whales in the area was greater than expected. A recent increase in reported sightings was also linked to a prominent upwelling system that generates large clouds of plankton into the Bight - perfect for blue whales to feed on.
It was previously thought that the whales were only travelling through New Zealand waters while migrating.