Ferries are taking extra precautions travelling through Wellington Harbour this week to avoid harming the visiting whale.

The rare southern right whale has made the harbour its home since Tuesday, when it was first spotted jumping and rolling in the frigid winter waters.

Ferry crew are "fully aware of the possibility of whales" and take all practicable steps to avoid the creatures while travelling across the Cook Strait, Interislander general manager Mark Thompson said.

"In the case of the whale in Wellington Harbour, this has included sounding the ship's horn."

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Thompson said it was unlikely a whale would be struck by a ferry.

"While it is relatively rare for a whale to be in Wellington Harbour it is not uncommon for whales to be sighted in Cook Strait.

"For example, during the winter months approximately 500 humpback whales slowly migrate through the Cook Strait on their way to the warmer waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean.

A southern right whale puts on a show while frolicking in Wellington Harbour a few hundreds metres off the Interislander ferry terminal. Photo / Mark Mitchel
A southern right whale puts on a show while frolicking in Wellington Harbour a few hundreds metres off the Interislander ferry terminal. Photo / Mark Mitchel

"The current sightings in Wellington Harbour have not caused any delays or disruptions to Interislander services.

"However, the whale's presence has provided an added attraction for those using our ferry service, with passengers delighted by its presence.

"Interislander has a strong connection with the marine environment, and partners with whale rescue organisation Project Jonah."

A marine tracking site earlier showed the ferry had to circle part of the harbour as the whale was stopping it from berthing.

Thompson said it was spotted near the Interislander terminal.

"As a precaution, the Interislander ferry Kaiarahi delayed berthing until it could do so without putting the whale at risk.

"We regret the inconvenience, but we are sure that our passengers understand, and took advantage of the chance to see our visitor."

Meanwhile, drivers are ignoring signs telling them not to stop on the motorway, instead parking up on the shoulder to get a good view of the harbour.

Overhead signs currently read "no stopping on motorway", but just metres away cars can be seen parked up on the shoulder, with occupants standing by the railing watching out over the water.

The whale has gained an audience, with locals rushing to the waterfront to see it. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The whale has gained an audience, with locals rushing to the waterfront to see it. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A police spokesperson said they also recommend people don't stop their cars on the motorway.

There is no word yet on whether tomorrow's Matariki fireworks display will be called off or not.

Wellington City Council is seeking advice on whether the display needs to be cancelled while the whale is still in the harbour.