Southern right whales and babies spotted in Wellington waters

A mother and calf near the Petone shore.
A mother and calf near the Petone shore. Photo credit: Dwight Lorenzen

Four southern right whales have been spotted in Wellington waters, comprised of two mothers and two babies.

A whale and calf were spotted a few hundred metres off the Petone shore on Tuesday evening, and another mother and baby were spotted on the Kāpiti Coast.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has confirmed both sightings.

It's the first recorded sighting of a mother and calf in the Wellington Harbour in modern times, according to marine species support officer Hannah Hendricks.

"Hopefully it's a great sign that they're rebounding from the days when they were hunted to near extinction," she said.

"Over winter southern right whales come in close to New Zealand, most of them are down at the Auckland Islands but they gather in sheltered bays to give birth to their babies and rest and socialise."

Ms Hendricks said DOC has examined the whales' markings and it's "probably not" likely that either the adult whales are Matariki, the whale who lingered in the Wellington Harbour for over a week last month.

Numerous commuters reported sightings of the whales near Petone, and Dwight Lorenzen posted a photo of the pair to a local dolphin and whale watch group on Facebook.

Anyone going out to watch the watch the whales should be aware that as each mother is with their calf, they need to keep at a distance of at least 200m.