New Zealand has a rich and diverse fauna of marine mammals. Almost half the world's cetaceans (whales, porpoises and dolphins) have been reported in our waters. For example, endemic Hector's dolphins (found nowhere else), rare beaked whales, New Zealand sea lions (found only in our southern waters), and the widely distributed New Zealand fur seals/kekeno. Other seals that visit our shores occasionally, such as the southern elephant seal/ihupuku and the leopard seal, are found in larger numbers in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters.
The populations of many species of large whales, (such as southern right whales and humpback whales) and both our indigenous seals were reduced to near extinction by commercial whalers and sealers of the past two centuries. Some are still threatened or endangered, and now face additional threats from habitat degradation, global climate change, by-catch in fishing operations, entanglement and accumulation of pollutants in the oceans.
Nine different species of dolphin are found around the New Zealand coast, including Hector's, Maui's and bottlenose dolphins.
Seals belong to a group of mammals known as 'pinnipeds'. Pinnipeds are divided into three families: walruses, true seals and eared seals. Find out about seals in New Zealand.
Whales are the world's largest mammals. Find out more about whales in this section.
The Chatham Islands are rich in marine mammal diversity with five seal and 25 whale and dolphin species reported around the islands. It is a stranding hot spot, among the top three places for strandings in New Zealand.
Report your whale and dolphin sightings.
Find out about DOC's role in marine mammal conservation. This includes the Department's responsibilities in areas such as whale and dolphin watching, whale strandings and accidental catch of marine mammals in fishing.
Marine and coastal conservation
Marine mammal sanctuaries
To report whale or dolphin sightings or strandings phone the DOC HOTline 24 hour emergency number:
0800 DOC HOTline (0800 362 468)