Perth Canyon Update

Current Location of R/V WhaleSong

RV WhaleSong shortly after refit in 2002, preparing to depart Fremantle for the pygmy blue whale season.

RV WhaleSong shortly after refit in 2002, preparing to depart Fremantle for the pygmy blue whale season.

S 31° 59.8′ E 115° 32.9′ (MAP)

WhaleSong and crew have just sailed down the Western Australian coast, making our fastest passage ever (eight days!) into the southerly winds, and is preparing for the 2005 blue whale season off Rottnest Island near Perth, Western Australia. Planning details with the Australian Defense Department, the primary funding body for the study for the past 3 seasons, are almost complete and the Centre is looking forward to another productive season.

At the moment we’re anchored off Rottnest Island analysing our humpback season data and preparing for a February 01 start to the blue whale season. The Australian Defense Department are interested in the pygmy blue whales that feed in the Perth Canyon for a number of reasons. These reasons revolve around the fact that the Perth Canyon is the closest deep water region to Australia’s main naval base in Western Australia at Garden Island.

Upwellings associated with the Gully result in the highest densities of krill and whales each year.

Upwellings associated with the Gully result in the highest densities of krill and whales each year.

John Bannister (Team scientist for the Western Australian Blue Whale Project) discovered a congregation of blue whales near the Canyon in 1994 and eventually secured funding from Environment Australia (now Department of Environment and Heritage) to conduct a pilot study over 2 seasons, beginning in 2000. Once the team established that there were consistent and relatively high densities of blue whale sightings in their main exercise area, the Defense Department established a proactive partnership with a consortium of research groups in 2002. This research project has made great strides forward in understanding the how, when and why’s of pygmy blue whales’ usage of this critical feeding area (read more). The Defense Department is justifiably proud of their contribution to this work thus far in the study, and has been a role model for other agencies striving to comply with the Australian EBPC Act.

Centre for Whale Research

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