Search efforts for baby orca pod Toa are set to be the focus today after orca sightings were reported this morning at Seatoun and Makara.
The Department of Conservation [DoC] said air and sea searches will assist in the efforts.
However, DoC believe it is unlikely Toa the baby orca will be moved back into a sea pen today due to contaminated water in Porirua.
Toa has been held in a 32,000-litre temporary pool since Thursday evening after a major storm was headed for the Wellington region which threatened to put the animal and volunteers at risk.
The aftermath of the storm caused contaminants to spill into the harbour forcing Greater Wellington Regional Council to issue a no swim notice.
The orca calf has been kept in captivity for 9 days after he was found stranded from his pod on July 11.
Efforts to find his family over the past eight days have so far been unsuccessful, leaving the orca in the hands of the Department of Conservation (DoC), Whale Rescue and volunteers.
DoC marine species manager Ian Angus said they are relying on the council to tell them whether they put the orca back in the sea pen.
"There's kind of two parameters here, is it safe to put volunteers back into the water and is the orca well enough at that moment in time for us to do the transfer and I think the council are indicating that water quality might not improve for a day or two."
There was frustration yesterday when they couldn't put Toa back into the sea, Angus said.
"It is really frustrating, I [guess] working with wildlife in the wild is very challenging we are well equipped to deal with that but, obviously every time you think you have got a plan but you have to really think it through [the plan] because something has changed it does cause some frustration."
Angus told the Herald they are planning to conduct a large search effort today due to improved weather conditions.
"The weather looks good for a good search for today and I think it's likely we will be making that wider effort."
DoC will be following reports of orca sightings near the top of the South Island in the Marlborough Sounds.
Angus said while they still feel positive people shouldn't underestimate the difficulties of the operation.
"[We] are trying to make sure we can do a translocation in a safe way with its wellbeing at the centre of our response. But it is challenging, I'm not going to lie about that at all."
Veterinary reports show that the animal continues to be in good health with experts suggesting he is still in a good condition for a relocation.
Marine biologist Dr Ingrid Visser told the Herald she's hopeful he will be reunited with them soon.
"We're making the best of a very difficult situation and he's doing remarkably well," she said. "He's living up to his name of being brave and strong."
Visser said yesterday they had put bull kelp in the pool to calm the orca.
"He went from breathing quite rapidly... to just this deep sleep ... breathing really slowly and gently massaging himself with the kelp.
"Really lovely to see."
Anyone who sights orca pods off the lower North Island's west coast – particularly between Wellington and Taranaki – is urged to provide as much information as possible to DoC, via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0800 DOC HOT.
Essential information includes location of the pod, direction of travel of the animals, and photographs or videos which clearly show the saddle/back markings of the animals and their dorsal fins.