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A tailless humpback whale has been spotted off New Zealand.

The whale was first seen on March 14 off the coast of Kaikoura on the north-east coast of South Island.

It was not clear how it came to lose its flukes, said local Department of Conservation ranger Mike Morrissey, but “it could have been the result of entanglement” in fishing nets.

Despite what looks like a severe injury, the whale seemed to be doing fine.

Photo Department of Conservation

Photo Department of Conservation

Whales are sometimes caught in fishing gear, which can injure or kill them.

The tears appear to have happened at least a year ago, Mike Morrissey added, as the images show little sign of open wounds.

It is the first time anyone in the area has seen a whale like it, he added, but he held out hope it might return.

Humpback whales have begun their annual migration from Antarctic feeding grounds to breeding grounds in the South Pacific.

Anyone who spots the whale is asked to report it to the Department of Conservation on

+64 800 36 24 68, so it can be tracked.