[MARMAM] MARMAM submission - two topics on dwarf minke whales

Matthew Curnock matthew.curnock at jcu.edu.au
Tue Oct 14 23:36:17 PDT 2008

Dear Sir/Madam,

On behalf of the Minke Whale Project research team (James Cook University, Townsville, Australia), please accept the following submission (two notices) for posting to the MARMAM list:


1. Updated Code of Practice for swimming-with-dwarf minke whales in the GBRWHA now available online. 

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) recently published an updated Code of Practice for dwarf minke whale interactions in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.  This Code of Practice has been developed collaboratively, based on the best available scientific information, with input from key stakeholders including swimming-with-whales endorsed tourism operators, Minke Whale Project researchers from James Cook University of North Queensland (Australia), staff from the GBRMPA and the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, and key national and international NGOs. 

Birtles, A., Arnold, P., Curnock, M., Salmon, S., Mangott, A., Sobtzick, S., Valentine, P., Caillaud, A. & Rumney, J. (2008). Code of Practice for dwarf minke whale interactions in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville, Australia. 

The Code of Practice is available in PDF format from the GBRMPA website: 

For more information about the Code of Practice or the Minke Whale Project (MWP), please contact: 
Dr Alastair Birtles (MWP Research Team Leader): Alastair.Birtles at jcu.edu.au  OR 
Matt Curnock (PhD Candidate): Matthew.Curnock at jcu.edu.au 


2. New paper on the 'Use of videogrammetry to estimate length to provide population demographics of dwarf minke whales in the northern Great Barrier Reef'. 


The following paper was published recently in the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management: 

Dunstan, A., Sobtzick, S., Birtles, A. & Arnold, P. (2007). Use of videogrammetry to estimate length to provide population demographics of dwarf minke whales in the northern Great Barrier Reef. J. Cetacean Res. Manage. 9(3): 215-223. 

Commercial swim-with-whale programmes, based on the dwarf minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), have been conducted in Great Barrier Reef waters since 1996 and under permit since 2003. Evaluating the effectiveness of management requires information on the biology of the whales, including possible impacts on their critical life stages, such as mating or calving. In this study, length measurements have been used as the best available proxy for age and thus state of sexual maturity. Underwater videogrammetry was used to estimate the lengths of dwarf minke whales interacting with boats and swimmers during June/July 2003 and 2004. The calibrations used to correct 
systematic biases in distance and length estimates are presented and other sources of error associated with the methodology and the behaviour of the whales are discussed. Mean lengths (from replicate measurements of individually identified whales) ranged 4.82-6.61m in 2003 (n=23, from five encounters) and 4.48-7.18m in 2004 (n=56, from 29 encounters). The overall mean length (2003: 5.90m, 2004: 5.73m) did not differ significantly between years. In both years, the mean lengths of the majority of whales (2003: 57%; 2004: 59%) were less than 6m, which is regarded as sexually immature based on available life history data. The size ranges within a single encounter were broad; no encounter was dominated by one size class. Segregation by size was not observed. This paper presents the first field measurements of dwarf minke whales on their tropical wintering grounds. While most whales interacting with vessels or swimmers were immature, adult whales, including cow-calf pairs, also were!
 involved. More information, especially on cumulative effects, is needed to assess the impact of these swim-with programmes.

PDF copies are available on request: Susan.Sobtzick at jcu.edu.au


Yours sincerely,

Matt Curnock.

Matt Curnock 
Research Officer & PhD Candidate 
Tourism & Environmental Sciences 
c/- School of Business, James Cook University 
Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia 
Tel: +61 7 4781 5428, Fax: +61 7 4781 4019 
Email: Matthew.Curnock at jcu.edu.au 
Latest MWP 2008 Research Newsletter now available online:

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