Update on Blue Whale Acoustic Tracking Project









A blue whale using a lateral lunge to feed at the surface


To aid in developing and trialling methods and equipment for these future voyages, the Australian Antarctic Division funded two short field seasons on the west coast of Victoria. Australian Marine Ecology's Senior Technical Officer, David Donnelly, recently returned from the second of these voyages where he acted as Deputy Voyage Leader and observer, seeking to establish whether or not acoustic tracking of blue whales makes it possible to increase visual encounter rates at sea. The voyage, run between March 12 and April 2 was highly successful with numerous acoustic detections and confirmed sightings of pygmy blue whales Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda. The preliminary results from these voyages suggests that the methods being trialled are a viable option for use in the more challenging waters off the coast of Antarctica.

The team successfully tracked and photographed 26 individual pygmy blue whales, with many others visually detected. The longest acoustic track lasted 30 hours and followed the target over a distance of 80 km.alt














A plot of sonobuoy records and vessel tracks arising from the survey overlaid on the Portland bathymetry


Observers recorded a total of 11 species of cetacean during the voyage, including a sighting of Shepherd’s beaked whale Tasmacetus shepherdi and two fin whales Balaenoptera physalus, which are rarely sighted along our coasts.










A fin whale transits off the Portland coast

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