[MARMAM] New paper: Searching for humpback whales in a historical whaling hotspot of the Coral Sea

Claire GARRIGUE claire.garrigue at ird.fr
Tue Jun 9 21:13:52 PDT 2020

Dear colleagues,

  We are pleased to announce that the following paper have been 
published in Endangered Species Research:

Garrigue, Derville, Bonneville, Baker, Cheeseman, Millet, Paton, Steel 
2020. Searching for humpback whales in a historical whaling hotspot of 
the Coral Sea, South Pacific. Endangered Species Research, 42:67-82 

Please find abstract below

Searching for humpback whales in the Coral sea two centuries post whaling

*Abstract: Humpback whales/Megaptera novaeangliae/were severely depleted 
by commercial whaling. Understanding key factors in their recovery is a 
crucial step for their conservation worldwide. In Oceania, the 
Chesterfield-Bellona archipelago was a primary whaling site in the 19^th 
century, yet has been left almost unaffected by anthropogenic activities 
since. We present the results of the first multidisciplinary dedicated 
surveys in the archipelago assessing humpback whale populations 2 
centuries post-whaling. We encountered 57 groups during 24 survey days 
(2016-2017), among which 35 whales were identified using photographs of 
natural markings (photo-ID), 38 using genotyping and 22 using both. 
Humpback whales were sparsely distributed (0.041 whales km^-1 ): most 
sightings concentrated in shallow inner-reef waters and neighbouring 
offshore shallow banks. The recently created marine protected area 
covers most of the areas of high predicted habitat suitability and high 
residence time from satellite-tracked whales. Surprisingly for a 
breeding area, sex ratios skewed towards females (1:2.4), and 45% of 
females were with calf. Connectivity was established with the New 
Caledonia breeding area to the east (mtDNA/F/_ST = 0.001, p > 0.05, 12 
photo-ID and 10 genotype matches) and with the Australian Great Barrier 
Reef breeding area to the west (mtDNA/F/_ST = 0.006, p > 0.05). Movement 
of satellite-tracked whales and photo-ID matches also suggest 
connections with the east Australian migratory corridor. This study 
confirms that humpback whales still inhabit the Chesterfield-Bellona 
archipelago 2 centuries post whaling, and that this pristine area 
potentially plays a role in facilitating migratory interchange among 
breeding grounds of the western South Pacific.*

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