A new international collaboration has been announced to share information on the rare Antarctic blue and killer whales.
to bank on the whales
Minister for Environment, Tony Burke said the Australian Marine Mammals Centre at the Australian Antarctic Division had created a database that allowed Southern Ocean seafarers to share their photographs of whales in the area to help obtain more information on the creatures.
Mr Burke said the database aimed to catalogue images of the whales to help scientists better understand whale abundance, distribution and behaviour.
“This is a chance for people in the Southern Ocean to make a valuable contribution to Australia’s non-lethal whale science and conservation research,” he said.
“Antarctic blue and killer whales are not regularly encountered in the Southern Ocean so we’re appealing to tourist vessels, commercial fishers, or merchant seamen in the region to take as many pictures of the whales as possible and upload them to the new database.
“The pictures will then be used, along with satellite tagging and acoustic research, to provide a clearer picture of the overall status and health of whales in the region.”
Mr Burke said photographers would need to observe minimum approach distances; take high-resolution photographs; record the date and location of the whale; and capture the whales’ tails, sides and fins to help with individual identification.
“Whale markings, such as different colouration on the fins and flukes, are like fingerprints in humans and can be used to identify individuals,” he said.
“The scientists will then be able to track where the whales were sighted and their movement around the Southern Ocean over time.”
“The images collected will be sent to existing photo identification catalogues in Chile and the United States,” Mr Burke said.
“This information will then be fed into the International Whaling Commission.”
Edition 344, 15 January 2013