Exmouth Tagging Update

Current Location of R/V WhaleSong

S 31° 59.8′ E 115° 32.9′ (MAP)

CWR heads East! The tagging team in Victoria - from left - Peter Gill, Curt Jenner, Nick Gales, Jason Gedamke - and CWR's customised Zodiac Pro, 'Mega'.

CWR heads East! The tagging team in Victoria - from left - Peter Gill, Curt Jenner, Nick Gales, Jason Gedamke - and CWR's customised Zodiac Pro, 'Mega'.


Our 2005 Blue Whale season is quickly coming to an end after 4 months of intensive effort. Unusually windy weather kept us crunching data, sheltered behind Rottnest Island for most of January and even into February. March saw the return of good weather and April has been superb as well. We’ve sighted 69 pygmy blue whales so far this season, photo-identifying 41 of these. Thus far 15 resights have been found in the catalogue with this seasons whales, greatly increasing our understanding of the frequency and overall time that these whales use the Perth Canyon.

In early April, CWR Principal Investigator Curt Jenner and Australian Antarctic Division Principal Research Scientist Dr. Nick Gales, traveled to Portland, Victoria, to assist Dr. Peter Gill of Australocetus Research with a new satellite tagging project on a group of pygmy blue whales that has been the focus of his PhD study for the past 6 years.

A 24m long Pygmy Blue Whale surfaces next to Mega in the Perth Canyon! Photo - Micheline Jenner

A 24m long Pygmy Blue Whale surfaces next to Mega in the Perth Canyon! Photo - Micheline Jenner

The satellite tagging project has been developing quickly over the past 5 years spearheaded by Gales and Jenner. Technician Eric King and Gales at the AAD have recently developed new tag launching equipment, and refined the already sophisticated electronics casing, to allow the tags to be applied from greater distances with minimal disturbance to the animals.

The result has been what we have been waiting for – 100% success from the first 4 deployments!

The Team, which included Dr. Jason Gedamke, also from the AAD, headed for Perth immediately after deploying Gills’ 4 tags. After two more days of effort in the Perth Canyon, and having been joined by Micheline Jenner, we had 4 more tags away – 2 of which were applied in a manner that will result in a delayed start time. This means that battery life won’t be used up while the whales feed in the Perth Canyon area, an area that we already know is critical to pygmy blue whales because individual whales feed there for 2 to 3 weeks each year.

The objective of CWR’s tagging project, as of that of Australocetus, is to determine the whales’ northern migratory path and eventually a calving ground, if such a thing exists for pygmy blue whales. Unfortunately the other 2 tags deployed in the Perth Canyon failed, but given the excellent status of the attached tags, we remain optimistic about realizing our goals. For updates on the tracks of the Perth Canyon and Bonney Upwelling whales go here.

One Response to Exmouth Tagging Update

  1. Avatar for jeff phipps
    jeff phipps May 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    Curt, We have been tagging turtles for over fifty years out of Tortuguero Costa Rica with the CCC, Sea Turtle Conservancy, and University of Florida late Conservation Biologist Archie Carr. You may have seen the Chiriqui trip video at Ecad 2011. For the last ten years or so, we have been doing satellite tags, yielding pertinent data that we use in policy advocacy. There is a symposium every year for sea turtle conservation, 2011 saw it in San Diego, not sure where it will be in 2012; that is a great resource on turtle research, and may yield you experts on satellite telemetry.
    Check out our tour de turtles, it is a race between satellite tagged turtles. This is a popular advocacy tool that we use, and you might pioneer it with whales to great press.

    Jeff

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