‘We want whales to continue to visit the Cook Islands’

Tuesday September 03, 2019 Written by Published in Environment
A juvenile humpback whale enjoying a playful afternoon, off the coast from the Game Fishing Club at Tupapa. 19090232 / taken by whale expert Nan Hauser. A juvenile humpback whale enjoying a playful afternoon, off the coast from the Game Fishing Club at Tupapa. 19090232 / taken by whale expert Nan Hauser.

Cook Islands’ renowned whale expert Nan Hauser is calling for greater awareness around whale protection in the hope of developing legal protections.

Hauser has been the Cook Islands for 23 years studying the whales in our waters; she says it’s an extraordinary experience but too often people venture too close to the enormous mammals.

Hauser has a special permit from the Prime Minister which allows her to get up close to the whales for the purposes of her research. But now she's concerned about others doing the same because they could harm or even drive the whales away from the Islands.

“We want whales to continue to visit the Cook Islands,” says Hauser.

The Cook Islands is a whale sanctuary but there are still threats to their health like ocean debris and human activity – and of course, they are on the endangered species list.

Hauser also warns that whales, on occasion, have breached near vessels. And there are a number of risks to both people and the whales in these situations.

“Whale-watching boats are getting way too close,” says Hauser.

Additionally, flying drones over whales is illegal and can only be done if you are granted permission particularly from the airport tower.

More importantly swimmers are forbidden to approach whales or swim with whales.

Sometimes whales can become aggressive if they feel harassed.

There are 22 species of whale that have visited the Cooks over the years and Hauser says whale numbers should be on the rise.

More sperm whales have visited this year than in previous years says Hauser.

However, our regular visitors are the Humpback whales that pass by the Cook Islands every year between July and October.

They have migrated over 4000 miles from Antarctica and after feeding there for four to six months they take a six-month journey into the Oceania’s warmer waters.

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