Antarctic blue whale project
During the 20th century nearly 1.3 million blue, fin and humpback (large baleen) whales were killed by industrial whaling. In 1964, with several species close to extinction, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned their exploitation. Currently our understanding of Antarctic blue whale ecology, behaviour and post-exploitation recovery is very poor. For example, only two abundance estimates for Antarctic blue whales (ABW) have been derived since 1964, each with low precision.
The Antarctic Blue Whale Project employs a multi-disciplinary approach to investigate foraging ecology, habitat preferences, and ultimately contribute to a precise circumpolar Antarctic blue whale abundance estimate. This project represents a coordinated, international research programme, focused on understanding both the recovery of Antarctic blue whales and their important role in the Southern Ocean ecosystem.
The objectives of the Antarctic Blue Whale Project (ABWP) are:
- to continue the development and refinement of methods to locate and sample Antarctic blue whales in the Southern Ocean
- to employ these methods to collect sufficient data to deliver a new circumpolar abundance estimate for Antarctic blue whales
- to improve understanding of Antarctic blue whale population structure, the linkages between breeding and feeding grounds, and characterise whale behaviour on the feeding grounds.
The Antarctic Blue Whale Project is undertaken as an international collaboration led by the Australian Antarctic Division and can be contacted via the SORP Secretariat. A detailed project overview is available and the project is guided by a scientific committee and four technical committees.
The methods and approaches adopted in the Antarctic Blue Whale Project have been peer-reviewed and endorsed by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
Validating the reliability of passive acoustic localisation: a novel method for encountering rare and remote Antarctic blue whales (2015) Endangered Species Research
Cruise planning and reports
Antarctic blue whale voyage 2013: science plan [PDF] (2013)
Antarctic blue whale voyage 2013: science report [PDF] (2013)
International Whaling Commission papers
Additional papers from this IWC-SORP project submitted to the International Whaling Commission:
A complete list can be found on IWC papers and reports.
Listening to the blues (2012) Australian Antarctic Magazine
Protecting the icons of the deep [PDF] (2013) International Innovation
Out of the blue [PDF] (2013) Island
Songs reveal elusive giants (2013) Australian Antarctic Magazine
Antarctic blue whale voyage
Dr Brian Miller, Lead Acoustician
I couldn't imagine a better bunch of scientists or crew to work with. They’re all dedicated and hard-working, getting up every morning at 5:00 am, putting on their heavy clothes, going out into the sometimes driving snow, looking for whales, it's not an easy task.