Supporting whale research: Australia

Together with colleagues from Marine Conservation Research and a number of experienced Australian whale researchers, IFAW representatives have studied whales off the west coast of Kangaroo Island.

On the SV Pelican researchers conducted a visual and acoustic survey, looking for whales during daylight hours in suitable conditions and using underwater microphones called hydrophones for acoustic monitoring 24 hours a day. As whales and dolphins spend very little time at the surface and use sound to communicate, navigate and find prey and mates underwater, acoustic monitoring is one of the most effective methods to detect these animals.

The waters off Kangaroo Island are considered to be a whale hotspot, but detailed scientific data is severely lacking for this area, particularly during the months of April and May. This is the location and time of year that Bight Petroleum, an oil and gas company, has historically conducted seismic testing. IFAW is very concerned that such an intrusive, noisy activity is happening in a place where a thorough assessment of its importance to whales has yet to be carried out.

IFAW has provided grant funding to groups researching whale habitat, including the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, Southwest Whale Ecology Study (SouWEST), and the Oceania Project.

IFAW presented Murdoch University’s Cetacean Research Unit (MUCRU) with one of its Animal Action Awards for Research in 2012, recognising it for its work to protect dolphins, whales and dugongs.

IFAW representatives also participated in a National Science Week event, supported by the Government of South Australia. ‘An Evening with Cetacean Experts’ took place in August 2013.