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Marine life in New Zealand

With the Tasman Sea on the west and the South Pacific Ocean on the east, you are never further than an hour and a quarter away from the coast, from any inland point in New Zealand. Add to this the subtropical climate, and it is no surprise that Kiwis like to spend a lot of their leisure time in or on the water.

New Zealand's waters are full of rare and magnificent creatures. New Zealand has a total of twenty-nine marine reserves spread around the North, the South Island, and neighbouring islands, and another two on outlying island groups.

The Hectors Dolphin (the world's smallest marine dolphin) is much smaller than other dolphins seen in New Zealand waters. An adult Hector’s dolphin grows to a length of 1.2 to 1.4 metres, also, the Hector’s is a little rounder than other New Zealand dolphins.

The New Zealand fur seal is found in West Australia, South Australia and New Zealand. In Tasmanian waters, it mainly occurs on the west and south coasts. Only a small number of New Zealand fur seals breed on remote islands off the south coast. About 100 pups are born annually. Like the Australian fur seal, not all pups will survive. Australia-wide, the population is estimated to be 58,000.

Hooker’s sea lions, also known as New Zealand sea lions, are one of only 5 species of sea lions in the world. Hooker’s sea lions are one of the most regionally localised and rare of the world’s seal species. They breed almost exclusively at the Auckland Islands in the New Zealand subantarctic region. A few sea lions also breed on New Zealand’s Campbell Island. The total population is estimated to be only about 12,500 animals.

The Royal Albatross Colony at Taiaroa Head, on the tip of the Otago Peninsula, New Zealand, is the only mainland breeding colony for any albatross species found in the southern hemisphere. The first Taiaroa-reared albatross chick flew in 1938 and this now protected nature reserve has grown into an established colony with a population of around 140 birds.

The yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) is only found in New Zealand is one of the rarest of our penguins. They live and breed around the south-east coast of the South island, on Stewart island and in the sub-antarctic Auckland and Campbell islands. They are known to Maori as Hoiho.

The Paua shellfish is only found in the seas around New Zealand and is the most colourful of all the abalone shells. Paua is considered a delicacy by many and the shell is traditionally used in carving and artwork.

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