Migratory Movements of Pygmy Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) between Australia and Indonesia as Revealed by Satellite Telemetry.

Migratory Movements of Pygmy Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) between Australia and Indonesia as Revealed by Satellite Telemetry.

PLoS One. 2014;9(4):e93578

Authors: Double MC, Andrews-Goff V, Jenner KC, Jenner MN, Laverick SM, Branch TA, Gales NJ

In Australian waters during the austral summer, pygmy blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) occur predictably in two distinct feeding areas off western and southern Australia. As with other blue whale subspecies, outside the austral summer their distribution and movements are poorly understood. In order to describe the migratory movements of these whales, we present the satellite telemetry derived movements of eleven individuals tagged off western Australia over two years. Whales were tracked from between 8 and 308 days covering an average distance of 3,009±892 km (mean ± se; range: 832 km-14,101 km) at a rate of 21.94±0.74 km per day (0.09 km-455.80 km/day). Whales were tagged during March and April and ultimately migrated northwards post tag deployment with the exception of a single animal which remained in the vicinity of the Perth Canyon/Naturaliste Plateau for its eight day tracking period. The tagged whales travelled relatively near to the Australian coastline (100.0±1.7 km) until reaching a prominent peninsula in the north-west of the state of Western Australia (North West Cape) after which they travelled offshore (238.0±13.9 km). Whales reached the northern terminus of their migration and potential breeding grounds in Indonesian waters by June. One satellite tag relayed intermittent information to describe aspects of the southern migration from Indonesia with the animal departing around September to arrive in the subtropical frontal zone, south of western Australia in December. Throughout their migratory range, these whales are exposed to impacts associated with industry, fishing and vessel traffic. These movements therefore provide a valuable tool to industry when assessing potential interactions with pygmy blue whales and should be considered by conservation managers and regulators when mitigating impacts of development. This is particularly relevant for this species as it continues to recover from past exploitation.

PMID: 24718589 [PubMed – in process]

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