National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2017

Using calls as an indicator for Antarctic blue whale distribution and occurrence across the southwest Pacific and southeast Indian oceans

Balcazar, N.E., H. Klinck, S.L. Nieukirk, D.K. Mellinger, K. Klinck, R.P. Dziak, and T.L. Rogers

Mar. Mamm. Sci., 33(1), 172–186, doi: 10.1111/mms.12373 (2017)

Understanding species distribution and behavior is essential for conservation programs of migratory species with recovering populations. The critically endangered Antarctic blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia) was heavily exploited during the whaling era. Because of their low numbers, highly migratory behavior, and occurrence in remote areas, their distribution and range are not fully understood, particularly in the southwest Pacific Ocean. This is the first Antarctic blue whale study covering the southwest Pacific Ocean region from temperate to tropical waters (32°S to 15°S). Passive acoustic data were recorded between 2010 and 2011 across the southwest Pacific (SWPO) and southeast Indian (SEIO) oceans. We detected Antarctic blue whale calls in previously undocumented SWPO locations off eastern Australia (32°S, 152°E) and within the Lau Basin (20°S, 176°W and 15°S, 173°W), and SEIO off northwest Australia (19°S, 115°E).In temperate waters, adjacent ocean basins had similar seasonal occurrence, in that calling Antarctic blue whales were present for long periods, almost year round in some areas. In northern tropical waters, calling whales were mostly present during the austral winter. Clarifying the occurrence and distribution of critically endangered species is fundamental for monitoring population recovery, marine protected area planning, and in mitigating anthropogenic threats.

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