DOC manages a number of historic sealing and whaling sites. Both activities were the earliest Pakeha commercial activities to flourish in New Zealand and were significant socially and politically as the ‘contact’ period between Maori and other cultures.

Missionaries were alarmed at some of the cross cultural initiatives. A number of Maori worked in these industries, some gaining considerable mana for their bravery and skill.

From an economic perspective New Zealand sealing and whaling were a tiny part of a global commodity market. For example, many seal skins were sold on Asian markets. Sealing and whaling were operated by offshore companies and were largely ship based. The saleable products were skins, bones and oil.

Seals in New Zealand had been hunted to the verge of extinction by 1830 and sealing was outlawed in 1926. Whaling continued and some large land based stations were built. The last station, Perano, closed after the killing of its last whale in December 1964. It closed for economic reasons, due to over-fishing by Japanese and Russian whaling fleets.

Sealing and whaling were also significant human activities in the Subantarctic Islands and a servicing facility on Stewart Island supported a Norwegian Antarctic whaling fleet.

Today the ships that played such a key role have long gone and remnants of the on-shore processing and living sites are all that remain. This story also reflects the history of human attitudes to biodiversity - how, when faced with the extinction of whales and seals, New Zealanders came to value their survival over their economic value. Today seals and whales are a significant part of our tourist industry.

The sites that DOC manages under this theme are:


  • Whangamumu Whaling Station, 1895


  • Whangaparapara, Great Barrier Island, 1956-62

East Coast/Hawke's Bay

  • Whakaari Pa/Whaling Station


  • Glory Bay Whalers Cottage, Pitt Island, 1865
  • Te Kahu-o-terangi – Kapiti Island Whaling Station, 1830
  • Try-pots, Kapiti Island, Rangatira Point, 1830


  • Perano Whaling Station, 1923
  • Te Awaiti, 1827


  • Te Umu Kuri (Wellers Rock) Historic Reserve (otaco-37744)


  • Campbell Island
  • Camp Cove Sod Hut, Campbell Island, 1810
  • Codfish Island Sealing Camp, 1825
  • Cuttle Cove Whaling Base, Preservation Inlet, 1829
  • Kaipipi Whaling Base, Stewart Island, 1923
  • Luncheon Cove, Dusky Sound, NZ’s first European sealing base, 1792
  • North East Harbour Whaling Station, Campbell Island, 1911

Further reading

Prickett, N. (2002). The Archaeology of New Zealand Shore Whaling (Department of Conservation, Wellington)

Smith, I. (2002). The New Zealand Sealing Industry (Department of Conservation, Wellington)

Smith, Nigel. (2001). Heritage of Industry: discovering New Zealand’s industrial history. (Reed Publishing, Auckland)

Grady, D. (1982). The Perano Whalers of Cook Strait, 1911-1964. (Reed, Wellington)

Related link

The archaeology of New Zealand shore whaling

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