WDC sends a message of support to Kaikoura’s whale watch community, wider community and tourists, following a 7.5 magnitude earthquake which struck the region early Monday morning, local time. The large earthquake has been followed by over 150 aftershocks in the last 24 hours, including one particularly hefty aftershock with a magnitude of 6.2. The coastal town of Kaikoura, on New Zealand’s South Island, has been the most badly damaged and has been almost completely isolated. A state of emergency has been declared, as huge landslides have closed roads and brought down phone lines. At least one person has been killed in Kaikoura and several injured people have been airlifted to hospital.
Kaikoura welcomes more than 100,000 tourists each year, many of whom are drawn to the region at the prospect of seeing whales and dolphins and the local economy is heavily dependent upon whale watch tourism. Young male sperm whales congregate to feed year-round, thanks to rich upwellings over the 3km deep Kaikoura Canyon which is situated remarkably close to shore. Migrating humpback whales are also seen seasonally and blue whales are even spotted on occasion, along with southern right whales and a host of other whale and dolphin species.
Our thoughts go to members of this stricken community, along with our hope that the region will be able to recover and get back to normal as soon as possible following this disaster.