Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Eavesdropping on the elusive blue whale

October 2012: Australian Antarctic scientists have successfully tested new acoustic technology to track and locate scores of blue whales hundreds of kilometres away by eavesdropping on the resonating song of these rare and elusive animals.
By using sound rather than sight to initially detect the whales, the scientists significantly improved the likelihood of finding and counting whales in the vast Southern Ocean. The research is a core part of an Australian-led international project to estimate the abundance, distribution and behaviour of the species that was decimated in the early 1900s when industrial whaling killed approximately 250,000 animals.
To test the technology, the team of Australian Antarctic Division scientists deployed directional sonobuoys in northern Bass Strait in January and March.
Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke said, "Blue whales are under threat of extinction and improved scientific knowledge will help in the conservation and recovery of the species. This research reinforces Australia's commitment to non-lethal research of whales. This contrasts with Japan's so-called ‘scientific whaling' where the alleged research begins with a harpoon. This breakthrough project again shows you don't have to kill a whale to study it."
103 sightings of Blue whales
Leader of the Australian Marine Mammals Centre Dr Mike Double said that over 20 days on the voyage there were 103 sightings of blue whales over a 10,000 km2 area.
"While blue whales are the largest animals on earth, growing up to 31 metres long, they're still very difficult to find in a vast ocean and we know very little about them," Dr Double said.

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