New Zealand sea lions on beach
Image: Sabine Bernert | ©


New Zealand marine mammals include many species of dolphins, seals and whales.

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.

Read about the threat status of New Zealand marine mammals.

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