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The Antarctic Blue Whale Project

The Antarctic Blue Whale Project
Natalie Kelly

Authors

Kelly N
CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics and Wealth from Oceans Flagship, Australian Marine Mammal Centre

Double M
Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Australian Antarctic Division

Wadley V
Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Australian Antarctic Division

Miller B
Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Australian Antarctic Division

Peel D
CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics and Wealth from Oceans Flagship, Australian Marine Mammal Centre

Andrews-Goff V
Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Australian Antarctic Division

Bell E
Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Australian Antarctic Division

Abstract

During the twentieth century some 330,000 Antarctic blue whales were taken by commercial whaling; the species was close to extinction when hunting was banned in the 1960s. Subsequent abundance estimates derived from line transect surveys over the past thirty years suggest that while the population is probably increasing, it still remains less than 5% of pre-exploitation abundance. Following cessation of circumpolar-level sighting surveys in 2004 there was no strategy to obtain further abundance estimates for Antarctic blue whales to judge their recovery, but a renewed effort will be conducted as part of the multi-national, circumpolar Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP). With low encounter rates, line transect methods are not likely to yield estimates of abundance with reasonable precision given the expected availability of dedicated research vessels. We therefore propose a mark-recapture approach, using both photo-ID and genetics, for estimating a new circumpolar abundance of Antarctic blue whales. These data may also prove valuable in studying population structure and individual movements within the Southern Ocean and beyond. We anticipate substantial improvements on historical encounter rates by targeting higher-density regions and by using passive-acoustics. Such improvement was confirmed during a voyage west of the Ross Sea in Jan-Mar 2013, which successfully found nearly 50 blue whales. The potential to place satellite-tags on blue whales was also demonstrated during this voyage. Under the Antarctic Blue Whale Project we plan build a legacy of data, and develop powerful and robust methods, to aid understanding of the recovery of the species over the coming decades.

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Key dates

  • 11th June 2013
    Registrations close
  • 21st June 2013
    Registrations at the AAD open for staff
  • 24th June 2013
    Registrations at the venue open
  • 24th June 2013
    Conference commences
  • 26th June 2013
    Conference concludes

More key dates…

This page was last modified on 5 September 2013.