Movements and mixing of humpback whales around Antarctica

Humpback whale; © Ari Friedlaender
The humpback leaps so high out of the water you can nearly see the tip of its tail.
The humpback rises spectacularly out of the water (Photo: Dave and Fiona Harvey)
The humpback whale's head is above the waterTwo people in wet weather gear in a small boat.Dorsal fin with ship backgroundClose up of a whale biopsyThe flukes of a mother and calf humpback whales

What is the distribution and extent of mixing of southern hemisphere humpback whale populations around Antarctica?

An improved understanding of the movements and mixing of humpback whales around Antarctica has been identified as a priority for the IWC. This information is integral to assessing the recovery of depleted populations.

A key step in assessing recovery is estimating pre-exploitation size which requires knowledge of stock identity and appropriate allocation of historic catches to correct stocks. An improved understanding of the migratory paths between the breeding and feeding grounds of humpback whales would allow the more appropriate allocation of catches made in this region. In turn, this would improve the accuracy of recovery assessments and estimates of pre-whaling population sizes. Revealing migration routes may also explain some of the variation in the recovery of whale stocks in different areas. The first phase of this project has focused on the links between the endangered Oceania whales, east Australia, New Zealand and Antarctic Area V and VI.

The project leaders are Dr Rochelle Constantine and Dr Jooke Robbins working with Dr Alex Zerbini, Dr Scott Baker, Dr Mike Double, Dr Claire Garrigue and Dr Phil Clapham. Collaborating nations include New Zealand, Australia, USA, France, Samoa and Tonga

Scientific expeditions such as the Australia-New Zealand Antarctic Whale Expedition 2010, are essential for gathering data and developing research techniques. After the successful AWE 2010 voyage, we realised that we possibly need to head further east to find the feeding grounds of the Oceania whales. So we are now planning voyages to Raoul Island (Kermadec Islands) and American Samoa to satellite tag whales as they undertake their southern migration to currently unknown Antarctic feeding grounds.

The project leaders are Dr Rochelle Constantine and Dr Jooke Robbins, working with Dr Alex Zerbini, Dr Scott Baker, Dr Mike Double, Dr Claire Garrigue and Dr Phil Clapham.

Collaborating nations include New Zealand, Australia, USA, France, Samoa and Tonga.

Scientific expeditions such as the Australia-New Zealand Antarctic Whale Expedition 2010 (AWE 2010) are essential for gathering data and developing research techniques. After the successful AWE 2010 voyage, we realised that we possibly need to head further east to find the feeding grounds of the Oceania whales. So we are now planning voyages to Raoul Island (Kermadec Islands) and American Samoa to satellite tag whales as they undertake their southern migration to currently unknown Antarctic feeding grounds.

Publications and reports

Remote Antarctic feeding grounds important for east Australia humpback whales [PDF] (2014) Marine Biology

Low levels of genetic differentiation characterize Australian humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) populations [PDF] (2014) Marine Mammal Science

An update of the CETA project: cetacean observation program in East Antarctica 2010-2014 [PDF] (2014) IWC

Genetic identity of humpback whales migrating past New Zealand [PDF] (2014) IWC

Humpback whale song on the Southern Ocean feeding grounds: implications for cultural transmission [PDF] (2013) PLoS ONE

CETA: a new cetacean observation program in East Antarctica (2011)

Genotype matching of humpback whales from the 2010 Australia/New Zealand Antarctic Whale Expedition (Area V) to the South Pacific [PDF] (2011)

Return movement of a humpback whale between the Antarctic Peninsula and American Samoa: a seasonal migration record [PDF] (2011) Endangered Species Research

Straight as an arrow: humpback whales swim constant course tracks during long-distance migration [PDF] (2011) Biology Letters

Antarctic Whale Expeditions: Preliminary science field report and summary [PDF] (2010)

Rapport du programme CETA: Cetaces en Terre Adelie [PDF] (2010)

Movements of satellite-monitored humpback whales from New Caledonia [PDF] (2010) Journal of Mammology

Movements of satellite-monitored humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, from the Cook Islands [PDF] (2010) Marine Mammal Science

Satellite tracking of Australian humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) and pygmy blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) [PDF] (2009)

International Whaling Commission papers

Papers from this SORP project submitted to the International Whaling Commission can be found on IWC papers and reports.

This page was last modified on July 26, 2016.