The Department of Biodiversity. Conservation and Attractions continues to use whale monitoring data to inform management.
In April, SouWEST (South-western Whale Ecology Study - www.souwest.org) researchers saw the earliest humpback and southern right whales arrivals since they began consistent monitoring in Geographe Bay 14 years ago.
Southern Right Whales are listed as endangered in Australia.
Researchers Mr. Chris Burton, Assoc. Prof. Chandra Salgado Kent, Ms. Brodee Elsdon, and local citizen scientists Mr. Ian Weise and Mr. Blair Ranford are, for the first time, presenting evidence that southern right whales use Geographe Bay in a manner consistent with criteria for a nationally recognised Southern Right Whale Emerging Aggregation Area. They will present their findings in July at the Australian Marine Science Association in Fremantle, WA.
SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALES
Southern right whales are critically endangered with low numbers visiting the shores of southern Australia each winter from June. Geographe Bay provides suitable protected habitat during this period, with adults and calves observed close to the coast.
Southern right whale off Cape Naturaliste, Geographe Bay. (C.Burton)
This species can also be identified individually by its pigmentation and callosity patterns on the top of its head.
Two southern right whales off Rocky Point, Geographe Bay. (C.Burton)
Tens of endangered pygmy blue whales journey thousands of kilometres south as part of their annual migration to the Southern Ocean. Before embarking on the final long stretch through the southern ocean, they pass through the sheltered waters of Geographe Bay.
Pygmy blue whale diving near Cape Naturaliste, Geographe Bay. (C.Burton)
Geographe Bay in the south west of Western Australia provides essential habitat for whales such as blue, humpback, and southern right whales. Antarctic blue whales were driven to near extinction after their numbers declined due to whaling in the 1900’s. The total population size is currently unknown but thought to be as few as just over 1000 animals. Pygmy blue whales are endangered and data deficient, with total numbers thought to be around 10,000.
Pygmy blue whale tail up dive, Geographe Bay. (C.Burton)
The Western Australian population of humpback whales have made a stunning recovery from very depleted levels in the mid 1960’s. However their recovery requires consistent monitoring, and maintaining the long term data sets of the southwest are crucial.
Humpback whale preparing to dive, Geographe Bay. (C.Burton)
Photo-identification is an important tool for recognising individual whales by their unique pigmentation patterns, enabling comparisons to be undertaken within the population and between geographic regions.
Humpback whale tail up dive, important for photo-identification. Geographe Bay (C.Burton)
WHO WE ARE
The South West Whale Ecology Study (SouWEST) is a collaborative science program integrating research expertise of Western Whale Research (WWR), the Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) at Curtin University, Oceans Blueprint , Eco Gecko - Environment & Design and community through the Dunsborough Coast and Land Care (D-CALC) group.
Mr Chris Burton from Western Whale Research and Dr Chandra Salgado from Curtin University are leading this project with a group of scientists conducting field studies using acoustics and theodolite tracking, before the whales disappear for another year.
Chris also coordinates the long term land based project continuing with volunteers from the local community giving their time to record whales as they pass through the Bay. He also conducts small vessel work to record pod structure, behaviour and undertake photo-identification on all species.
“This study is planned as a long term research program that will enable us to understand how changes in our environment affect whales,” Dr Salgado.
Researchers conducting land based surveys.
Chris and Chandra conducting boat based surveys.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP TO HELP WHALES
Every year scientists converge in the south to study these amazing animals, and we need your help to do this vital research.
Without funding from amazing people like you, the team cannot run the research. Please help us help the whales by supporting the research!
HOW WE WILL USE FUNDS RAISED
Your donations will help researchers:
* track whale movements and behaviours
* record whale sounds (vocalisations)
* take photos of whales to identify individual animals and match them with previous records (photo identification)
* develop community engagement education programs
* stay in the area to do this vital research
HOW SOON WE NEED YOUR HELP
We need your help to gather enough funds to run a season of research for 2019 and begin our community education planning.
Thank you to the wonderful group of people donated to our campaign previously. Your kind donations was used for field research.
WHAT IT MEANS TO US
Your donation will help us to continue vital research into whale species this year.
This is incredibly valuable for conservation as through this long term study we will understand how to better manage special areas such as Geographe Bay to ensure whale survival into the future.
Our team (and the whales) will be incredibly thankful for your contribution!
WHY WE DO IT
SouWEST endeavours to ensure the long-term future of these whales through promoting sustainable development by improving the scientific foundation for conservation management and species protection within the region.
More information is available from souwest.org or find us on Facebook .
Female and calf humpback whales, Geographe Bay. (C.Salgado Kent)
Photo credits: Mr Chris Burton and Dr Chandra Salgado Kent
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