Blue and fin whale acoustic trends 

A joint IWC-SORP-SOOS Capability Working Group

  • December 2017
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The Acoustic Trends Working Group aims to implement a long-term research program examining trends in Southern Ocean Antarctic blue and fin whale population growth, distribution and seasonal presence using passive acoustic monitoring techniques.

In the Southern Ocean, Antarctic blue whales and fin whales were severely depleted during commercial whaling. To monitor the post-exploitation status of both species in this remote area, the Acoustic Trends Working Group has proposed the use of a circum-Antarctic network of passive acoustic recorders.

Two fin whales. Photo: Paula Olson

Passive acoustic data can provide year-round information on species distribution, movement and ultimately estimates of relative abundance. These insights provide the basis for management decisions and effective conservation measures such as the designation of marine protected areas.

Through international collaboration the working group proposes to complete coverage for a Southern Ocean Hydrophone Network. This circum-Antarctic monitoring effort is multi-year, multi-site, interdisciplinary, international/inter-institutional.

The Acoustic Trends Working Group is looking for partners within SOOS that have access to instrumentation and/or infrastructure (e.g. moorings, ships) to collect passive acoustic data in the Southern Ocean, ideally working in the yellow areas (see map above).

The working group provides:

  • Coordination and support of co-operation in instrument deployments between collaborators;
  • Recommendations on instruments and mooring settings (technical report: Van Opzeeland et al. 2013).
  • A network for international student training to deploy and work with passive acoustic recorders;
  • A pan-Antarctic passive acoustic monitoring database freely available to participant members from which large-scale patterns in Antarctic blue whales and fin whales (also other species, such as Antarctic minke whales, humpback whales and Antarctic pinnipeds) distribution and habitat use can be extracted.

The IWC-SORP/SOOS Acoustic Trends Working Group is:

Susannah Buchan (Universidad de Concepcion, Chile)
Ken Findlay (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa)
Danielle Harris (University of St Andrews, UK)
Brian Miller (Australian Antarctic Division, Aus)
Flore Samaran* (CNRS, France)
Ana Širović (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA)
Kathleen Stafford* (University of Washington, USA)
Ilse Van Opzeeland (Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany)


More information on the Acoustic Trends Working Group is available at the IWC-SORP website

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