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US/NZ to track endangered whales in Rarotonga

US/NZ to track endangered whales in Rarotonga

26 August 2014

Three US scientists are this week deploying satellite tracking tags on Humpback whales off the Rarotonga coast to gain information vital to protecting the endangered mammals from extinction.

The scientists, University of Canterbury lecturer Travis Horton, Director of the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation Nan Hauser, and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration’s Alex Zerbini, will deploy seven satellite monitoring tags between August 26 and September 6.

Dr Horton said it would be only the second time the endangered Oceania Humpback whales are tracked from the Cook Islands. The last documented track was recorded by Dr Hauser in 2007.

Dr Hauser’s research showed several whales moved directly from Rarotonga to American Samoa before making the long distance migration from their tropical calving grounds to feeding grounds in the Antarctic.

“We still lack basic knowledge about Humpback whale movement, but past research indicates that Rarotonga largely serves as a stop-over site for whales in transit to other areas across Oceania,” Dr Horton said.

“By deploying satellite transmitter tags on whales as they pass through Rarotonga, we’ll gain a better understanding of how these whales disperse and what migration corridors they use,” he said.

The satellite tracking tags, which last over a year, will allow the scientists to monitor the whales’ movements as soon as the transmitters are attached. Subsequent data from the Argos satellite system will continue to detail the whales’ movement in real time.

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘Our Ocean 2014’ conference in June this year, emphasised the importance of bilateral partnerships, such as this one between the US and New Zealand, in preserving global ocean health and its inhabitants for future generations.

Further information:

Follow Dr Horton’s whale blog: http://megaptera14.blogspot.co.nz/

More information about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘Our Ocean 2014’ conference: http://www.state.gov/e/oes/ocns/opa/2014conf/index.htm

ENDS


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