The epic moment a white whale was spotted off the coast in New Zealand

Headlines 06/07/2018

A white humpback whale was sighted this week off the coast of Gisborne, which is an extremely rare occurence. Whale biologist and expert Dr Ingrid Visser reckons this is a significant find. 

It's likely the whale is Migaloo - a famous white humpack found in Aussie waters. It may also be the first sighting of a new white whale which is really exciting.

Joshua Whitley, a crayfisherman from Gisborne, had the "experience of a lifetime" when he spotted the whale:

"I just happened to look up and see a whale spout. We decided to go over and have a look."

When approaching, he noticed the whale was a little different: "It was completely white".

Whitley and his crew were "completely buzzing" at the "once in a lifetime" sighting.

"When we left, we thought it was Migaloo, he was right underneath the stern, it was crazy.

"At first, they were pretty spooked, they were cruising at 5 knots. Once they got used to the boat and knew we weren't going to hurt them they came closer."

There are only two recorded white humpback whales in the world - Migaloo and another that is located in the Atlantic Ocean. Both are either albino or leucistic, meaning white pigmentation. The difference between the two is albino animals have pink eyes while leucistic animals have black eyes.

If this is a new white humpback whale it's a pretty big deal, making it the third known in the world!

Anyone who sights the latest white whale is asked to report it to the Orca Research Trust on 0800 733 6722. Visser also stresses that observers should follow the law and give the whales more than 50m of space and travel no faster than 5 knots when near them.

Check out the vid above, and if you're lucky enough to spot the whales remember to follow the Marine Mammals Protection Act:

Marine Mammals Protection Act

  • Do not disturb, harass or make loud noises near marine mammals.
  • Contact should stop if marine mammals show any signs of becoming disturbed or alarmed.
  • Do not feed or throw any rubbish near marine mammals.
  • Avoid sudden or repeated changes in speed or direction of any vessel or aircraft near a marine mammal.
  • There should be no more than three vessels and/or aircraft within 300m of any marine mammal.
  • Ensure that you travel no faster than idle or "no wake" speed within 300m of any marine mammal.
  • Approach whales and dolphins from behind and to the side.
  • Do not circle them, obstruct their path or cut through any group.
  • Keep at least 50m from whales (or 200m from any whale mother and calf or calves).
  • Swimming with whales is not permitted.