An Orca sighted from tourist boat the Monarch at Taiaroa
Head this summer.
It has been an unusual summer for Monarch Wildlife
Cruises skipper Sean Heseltine, who has seen more Orca around
Taiaroa Head this summer than during his past seven years on
Orca have been spotted from the tourist boat five times in
the past four months, while records of sightings from the
boat, going back 17 years, show only four other sightings.
The Orca have been spotted in the harbour entrance and
swimming slowly, close to the shore.
"One group came right underneath the boat. You could have
just about reached down and touched them."
But while the Orca sightings have excited Mr Heseltine, at
the same time dolphin sightings are down, with fewer than
half the usual number of dolphin sightings recorded this
The most common dolphins seen were Dusky and Hector's
dolphins, Mr Heseltine said.
Department of Conservation marine ranger Jim Fyfe said it was
possible the presence of Orca was causing dolphins to give
the area a wide berth, although that was pure speculation.
It was likely to be the same pod of Orca spending time in the
area. Orca had been seen from the boat as recently as last
It was not unusual to see Orca off the Otago coastline,
particularly at this time of year, although the sightings
were interesting, he said.
He would need to go back through the Doc database of Orca
sightings to see if the increased sightings were just in the
harbour entrance area or if sightings were up throughout the
"There is certainly food available for Orca in the vicinity
and maybe they are cottoning on to that fact."