Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Scientists spot rare blue whales off New Zealand coast

Scientists spot rare blue whales off New Zealand coast

Rare blue whales have been spotted by NIWA scientists on a research expedition in the South Taranaki Bight.

Sightings of the whales, the world’s largest animal, are rare and they remain one of the planet’s most elusive creatures. They were intensively hunted during the whaling era in the Southern Hemisphere, dramatically reducing their numbers.

NIWA marine ecologist Dr Leigh Torres is leading a team of blue whale researchers in the Bight on a journey that aims to collect critical data to enhance understanding of the blue whale population in the region. In the past week, the team has observed nearly 50 blue whales.

“It is very exciting to see these whales and start the process of collecting important data on this undescribed population and poorly understood foraging habitat.

“In addition to finding the whales, we were able to detect their prey visually on the surface and at-depth using hydro-acoustics,” Dr Torres said.

Last year, Dr Torres published a scientific paper that discussed the possibility of a blue whale foraging ground in the South Taranaki Bight. Her research showed the presence of blue whales in the area was greater than expected. A recent increase in reported sightings was also linked to a prominent upwelling system that generates large clouds of plankton into the Bight - perfect for blue whales to feed on.

It was previously thought that the whales were only travelling through New Zealand waters while migrating.

Dr Torres said field work was the “next logical step to document the foraging ground and collect vital information on this blue whale population and their ecological patterns”.

“Blue whales need to eat vast amounts of plankton to support their energy demands. But there are just four confirmed blue whale foraging grounds in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Antarctic waters.”

The research team has taken hundreds of photos to identify the individual whales, tissue samples to genetically identify the individual whales and their prey species, acoustic recordings, prey samples and oceanographic data.

The research is being conducted onboard NIWA’s coastal research vessel Ikatere. The research team comprises scientists from NIWA, The Blue Whale Study based in Australia and Oregon State University. Renowned blue whale scientist, Dr Pete Gill, said “These blue whales exhibited very similar behaviour patterns to the blue whales we see feeding in the Bonney upwelling in Australia.”

Funding for this project has been contributed by NIWA, the Department of Conservation, the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Greenpeace New Zealand, and Todd Energy. This collaboration is possible through the logistical support and data analyses by NIWA, the Australian-based Blue Whale Study, University of Auckland, Oregon State University, Australian Antarctic Division, Cawthron Institute and the US Southwest Fisheries Science Centre NMFS/NOAA.

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Cosmetics & Pollution: Proposal To Ban Microbeads

Cosmetic products containing microbeads will be banned under a proposal announced by the Minister for the Environment today. Marine scientists have been advocating for a ban on the microplastics, which have been found to quickly enter waterways and harm marine life. More>>

ALSO:

NIWA: 2016 New Zealand’s Warmest Year On Record

Annual temperatures were above average (0.51°C to 1.20°C above the annual average) throughout the country, with very few locations observing near average temperatures (within 0.5°C of the annual average) or lower. The year 2016 was the warmest on record for New Zealand, based on NIWA’s seven-station series which begins in 1909. More>>

ALSO:

Farewell 2016: NZ Economy Flies Through 2016's Political Curveballs

Dec. 23 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's economy batted away some curly political curveballs of 2016 to end the year on a high note, with its twin planks of a booming construction sector and rampant tourism soon to be joined by a resurgent dairy industry. More>>

ALSO:


NZ Economy: More Growth Than Expected In 3rd Qtr

Dec. 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's economy grew at a faster pace than expected in the September quarter as a booming construction sector continued to underpin activity, spilling over into related building services, and was bolstered by tourism and transport ... More>>

  • NZ Govt - Solid growth for NZ despite fragile world economy
  • NZ Council of Trade Unions - Government needs to ensure economy raises living standards
  • KiwiRail Goes Deisel: Cans electric trains on partially electrified North Island trunkline

    Dec. 21 (BusinessDesk) – KiwiRail, the state-owned rail and freight operator, said a small fleet of electric trains on New Zealand’s North Island would be phased out over the next two years and replaced with diesel locomotives. More>>

  • KiwiRail - KiwiRail announces fleet decision on North Island line
  • Greens - Ditching electric trains massive step backwards
  • Labour - Bill English turns ‘Think Big’ into ‘Think Backwards’
  • First Union - Train drivers condemn KiwiRail’s return to “dirty diesel”
  • NZ First - KiwiRail Going Backwards for Xmas
  • NIWA: The Year's Top Science Findings

    Since 1972 NIWA has operated a Clean Air Monitoring Station at Baring Head, near Wellington... In June, Baring Head’s carbon dioxide readings officially passed 400 parts per million (ppm), a level last reached more than three million years ago. More>>

    ALSO:

    Get More From Scoop

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Sci-Tech
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news