[MARMAM] New publication: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to assess humpback whale behavioral responses to swim-with interactions in Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga

Lorenzo Fiori zahir.aye.aye at gmail.com
Tue May 5 08:53:34 PDT 2020

Dear MARMAM community,

On behalf of my coauthors Emmanuelle Martinez, Mark B. Orams & Barbara
Bollard, I am pleased to announce the publication of our recent article: "Using
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to assess humpback whale behavioral
responses to swim-with interactions in Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga" on the
Journal of Sustainable Tourism.


The Kingdom of Tonga is a one of the few countries worldwide that allow
swim-with-whales tourism activities. Most of the tour operators are based
in Vava'u archipelago which represents an important breeding ground for
Oceania humpback whales (*Megaptera novaeangliae*). This study represents
an assessment of the effects of swimmer approaches on humpback whales'
behaviour using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). UAV flights took place
during the 2016 and 2017 whale breeding seasons from on board research and
swim-with-whales vessels. Whales' behavioural states (resting, travelling,
surface-active, socialising, nurturing) were assessed from aerial videos
and the proportions of time spent in each state in the presence and absence
of swimmers were compared. Whale agonistic behaviours directed towards
swimmers and the injury of a swimmer caused by a whale were documented.
Results indicate that in-water tourism activities significantly altered the
time spent in each behavioural state by humpback whale in Vava'u.
Mother-calf pairs decreased the proportion of time spent nurturing, while
the time spent travelling increased two-fold when approached by swimmers.
These findings indicate a potential energy expenditure increase for
humpback whale mothers and their calves in response to swim-with tourism
activities in Vava'u. Moreover, whales' behavioural responses can pose
danger of injury to swimmers.

The full article (50 free e-prints) is available online at:


Please, do not hesitate to contact me (lfiori at aut.ac.nz) if you have
any queries regarding to this article or to request a PDF copy.

Best regards,
Lorenzo Fiori

Lorenzo Fiori, PhD, MSc in Marine Biology
+64 27 3658099 | Skype: aye.aye-83
New Zealand Institute of Applied Ecology | School of Sciences
Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences | Auckland University of
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