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 Mike Double at the Australian Antarctic Division. A detailed project overview is available and the project is guided by a scientific committee and four technical committees.


Project development

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

A simulation study of acoustic-assisted tracking of whales for mark-recapture surveys (2014) PLOS ONE

Antarctic Blue Whale surveys: augmenting via genetics for close-kin and ordinal age [PDF] (2014)

Precision of a Future Antarctic blue whales Line Transect Survey [PDF] (2014)

Exploration of a future mark-recapture study of Antarctic Blue Whales [PDF] (2014)

Satellite telemetry derived summer movements of Antarctic blue whales [PDF] (2013)

Long-range acoustic tracking of Antarctic blue whales [PDF] (2013)

Strategies to obtain a new circumpolar abundance estimate for Antarctic Blue Whales: survey design and sampling protocols [PDF] (2012)

Real-time tracking of Blue Whales using DIFAR sonobuoys [PDF] (2012)

Exploratory analyses of potential encounter rates for an acoustic tracking survey method for blue whales [PDF] (2012)

Strategies to obtain a new abundance estimate for Antarctic blue whales: a feasibility study [PDF] (2011)

Cruise planning and reports

Report of the 2013/14 South African Antarctic blue whale survey, 000° - 020°E [PDF] (2014)

SORP research report: the South African blue whale project [PDF] (2013)

Antarctic blue whale voyage 2013: science plan [PDF] (2013)

Antarctic blue whale voyage 2013: science report [PDF] (2013)

Cruise report of the 2013 Antarctic blue whale voyage of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership [PDF] (2013)

Abundance estimation of Antarctic Blue Whales: preliminary voyage plan for SORP in March 2013 [PDF] (2012)

Development of acoustic methods: cruise report on SORP 2012 Antarctic Blue Whale voyages [PDF] (2012)

International Whaling Commission papers

Additional papers from this IWC-SORP project submitted to the International Whaling Commission:

Blue whale songs recorded around South Island, New Zealand [PDF] (2013)

Photo-identification of Antarctic blue whales during the SORP Antarctic Blue Whale Voyage (2013) [PDF] (2013)

New Zealand blue whales: initial photo-identification of a little-known population [PDF] (2013)

A complete list can be found on IWC papers and reports.

Popular articles

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

This page was last updated on 26 June 2016