Oma Tafua was founded in 2005 – the same year Niue’s Plan of Management for its Whale Sanctuary was developed following comprehensive consultation with key stakeholders. Note that in 2003 Niue’s national waters were declared as a National Whale Sanctuary. In 2006, with the help of a small grant by the New Zealand High Commission, Oma was able to launch its first “raising awareness campaign”.
In 2008, a 10 day pilot survey with the then team of 4 (Fiafia Rex, Olive Andrews, Schannel van Dijken and Vanessa Marsh) revealed 41 sightings of cetaceans, with over 50 encounters of humpback whales of which 3 included mother/calf pairs. One animal seen here in Niue was also seen in Tonga in 2006. Three skin samples were also collected providing valuable information for regional population genetics assessments. (Note however that several seasons of data are needed in order to assess population abundance.)
In 2010, two additional team members to Niue’s Whale Research Team – Ben Parangi and Cara Blomfield proved yet another successful year for research findings. That year, two new species were documented adding to Niue’s marine mammal species inventory. These two species were Sei whales and Sperm Whales. To add, eight photo IDs along with a skin sample were collected. That year Niue’s whale song made debut on the Team’s tracklist, but, what was even more impressive was a documented song change. This is rare and one of many amazing experiences being on Niue’s Whale Research Team! Two whale songs sung in the one season – never documented before!
The Niue Whale Research Team and members that make up Oma Tafua are all volunteers that contribute to meeting Niue’s objectives under the Plan of Management for Niue’s Whale Sanctuary, as with other regional programmes such as the SPREP Whale and Dolphin Action Plan.