Southern Ocean Research Partnership
The Southern Ocean Research Partnership (SORP) is an integrated, collaborative consortium for non-lethal whale research, which aims to maximise conservation outcomes for Southern Ocean whales through an understanding of the post-exploitation status, health, dynamics and environmental linkages of their populations, and the threats they face. The partnership maintains an integrated and responsive relationship with the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and its priorities. SORP was endorsed by the Scientific Committee of the IWC at its Annual Meeting in June 2009.
SORP focuses on the large whale species managed by the IWC: Antarctic blue whale, humpback whale, fin whale and Antarctic minke whale. Killer whales are also considered as an important component of the Southern Ocean ecosystem. The regional focus of SORP is the Southern Ocean but relevant research efforts also include migratory corridors and breeding grounds. There are currently five on-going SORP research projects:
- The Antarctic Blue Whale Project (ABWP): towards an improved circumpolar abundance estimate.
- Distribution, relative abundance, migration patterns and foraging ecology of three ecotypes of killer whales in the Southern Ocean.
- Foraging ecology and predator-prey interactions between baleen (minke and humpback) whales and krill: a multi-scale comparative study across Antarctic regions.
- Acoustic trends in abundance, distribution, and seasonal presence of Antarctic blue whales and fin whales in the Southern Ocean.
- What is the distribution and extent of mixing of Southern Hemisphere humpback whale populations around Antarctica?
A 6th project, The Living Whales Symposium and workshops, was completed in March 2012.
Scientists participating in SORP are developing and applying novel, powerful, non-lethal research methods including acoustic techniques, tagging devices, photography and satellite tracking methods, tissue sampling and sophisticated genetic techniques, as well as important ecological theory and analyses.
Current Partnership members include: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and the United States.
The SORP warmly welcomes new partners to formally commit to participation in this exciting initiative.
2013 Announcement of the Antarctic Blue Whale Voyage February/March 2013
The Australian Antarctic Division of the Australian Government is planning an Antarctic Blue Whale Voyage in the austral summer of 2013. This voyage is a project of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership’s Antarctic Blue Whale Project (ABWP). The ABWP aims to develop technologies and collect data that will be employed as part of a wider dataset to (i) estimate the abundance of Antarctic blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia) in the future; (ii) improve our understanding of population structure and linkages between breeding and feeding grounds; and (iii) characterise blue whale behaviour in the feeding grounds. International collaboration on the Antarctic Blue Whale Project is welcomed.
2012 International Whaling Commission (IWC) 64th Meeting
Sixteen papers related to SORP have been prepared for presentation to the Scientific Committee of the IWC to be held in June 2012 in Panama City (IWC64), including the SORP Annual Report for 2011/12. These papers will be available after the meeting from the IWC or by contacting the SORP coordinator.
2012 The SORP Living Whales Symposium and Workshop
The SORP Living Whales Symposium and workshops took place in Puerto Varas, Chile 27-29 March 2012. The focus of the Symposium and accompanying workshops was to review the strengths and weaknesses of current and new methods for studying living whales in the Southern Ocean. Presentations focused on methodological, analytical and technological advances in non-lethal methodology, including those that are still under development.
The Symposium and workshops were a huge success: there were 124 registered participants from 16 countries (Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Australia, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Madagascar, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, South Africa, UK, USA). The Symposium was also live streamed on the web, allowing an additional 1,553 simultaneous viewers worldwide. Further information is available from the Symposium website and the Living Whales Symposium and workshops report.
2012 SORP-ABWP pygmy blue whale voyages
The Southern Ocean Research Partnership Antarctic Blue Whale Project (ABWP) ran two highly successful voyages in the Bass Strait region, January to March 2012, to study pygmy blue whales. The methods developed and tested during these voyages are being used to prepare for the above-mentioned Antarctic Blue Whale Voyage in early 2013.
2011 International Whaling Commission (IWC) 63rd Meeting
Seven papers related to SORP were presented to the Scientific Committee of the IWC, including an Annual Report of SORP for 20010/11 and Revised Project Outlines for the SORP projects. The papers are available from the IWC or from contacting the SORP coordinator below.
2010 International Whaling Commission (IWC) 62nd Meeting
Nine papers related to SORP were presented to the Scientific Committee of the IWC, including an Annual Report of SORP for 2009/10 [PDF]. These papers are available from the IWC or from contacting the SORP coordinator below. Six draft SORP projects were proposed and these projects will form the focus for SORP over the next five years.
2010 Joint Australia-New Zealand Antarctic Whale Expedition (AWE)
The AWE was successfully completed during February and March 2010 and represents a significant commitment to funding non-lethal whale research by the Australian and New Zealand Governments under the SORP initiative. See the AWE summary report [PDF].
2009 December Seattle Workshop
The USA Government hosted the second SORP workshop from 1-3 December 2009 at the National Marine Mammal Lab in Seattle. The focus of this technical workshop was to scope and develop project plans for specific SORP projects leading into the future. The workshop was attended by 15 representatives from 6 countries (Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France and USA). See the Seattle Workshop Report [PDF].
2009 March Sydney Workshop
The Australian Government hosted the first planning workshop in March 2009 which was open to all nations and IWC-affiliated groups interested in contributing to the Southern Ocean Research Partnership. The SORP Workshop was held successfully during 23-26 March 2009 at the Australian National Maritime Museum, at Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia. The 50 workshop participants included scientists of 16 nationalities, with formal representation from 12 countries (Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Uruguay and USA) and several research and environment consortiums. See Sydney Workshop documents for a Final Workshop Report and Final Summary of Outcomes.
All media inquiries should be directed to Patti Lucas.
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