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

 

Restrictions Lifted: No Further Tau Flies Found

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirms that all restrictions on the movement of fruit and vegetables in Manurewa, Auckland, due to the Tau fly, have been lifted as of 2.26pm on Sunday 7 February. More>>

Crowdfinding: Awaroa Beach To Become Public Land If Appeal Succeeds

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says a privately-owned beach will become part of the Abel Tasman National Park if an online crowdfunding campaign to buy it succeeds... More>>

ALSO:

Meat Workers Union: Waitangi Mondayisation Flaunted By Large Employer Of Maori

At the AFFCO Talley owned meat plant in Rangiuru, the company has resorted to bullying and threats... saying they could be disciplined and their union sued for an unlawful strike if workers exercise their rights to a paid day off tomorrow. More>>

Earlier:

ETS Review: Modelling Documents Released

Three technical documents are being released to help New Zealanders engage with the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) review, Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says. More>>

ALSO:

Northland: Govt Plan Targets Transport, Web, Maori Assets

The government has released a 10-year plan to attract investors and lift economic growth in Northland, a region that perennially underperforms the rest of the country even while being endowed with natural beauty, productive land, minerals, a potential workforce, scope for manufacturing, forestry and aquaculture, and proximity to Auckland. More>>

ALSO:

Statistics: Unemployment Rate Falls To 5.3 Percent

The unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in the December 2015 quarter (from 6.0 percent), Statistics New Zealand said today. This is the lowest unemployment rate since March 2009. There were 16,000 fewer people unemployed than in the September ... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news