A southern right whale that found itself in shallow waters off Mt Maunganui is now swimming free - but boaties are still being warned to steer clear.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) said it was called to a possible whale stranding off Moturiki Island in Mt Maunganui.

The whale found itself in shallow water near the island, also known as Leisure Island.
DoC partnership manager Margaret Metcalfe said it was not stranded but could easily get into trouble.

Whale rescue group Project Jonah, which is working with DoC, said the whale had moved in to deeper waters and was "free swimming" shortly after 5pm.

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"We will continue to monitor the situation with DoC, but would like to remind everyone that this is a rare species of whale and we don't want to cause it any further stress.

"Please respect this and keep your distance, do not go into the water or approach the whale."

Bay of Plenty police earlier advised on Facebook that DoC had requested boats stay out of the area "as this causes further problems and safety issues".

"They are also requesting that if people go down to the area that they stay away from the whale as they are working to save the whale and re-float it on the high tide.

"Although people are going down with good intentions they are getting in the way of the workers who have to take care of their own safety around a wild and distressed animal without having to also lookout for other members of the public who may think they are assisting but make the matter more dangerous for those dealing with the situation.

"Please stay back from the area that they are working. Police have already had to remove people from the area as they keep getting in the way of the work being done."

- Additional reporting from the Bay of Plenty Times