New Zealand southern right whale (Eubalaena australis; Tohorā nō Aotearoa) behavioural phenology, demographic composition, and habitat use in Port Ross, Auckland Islands over three decades: 1998–2021

Emma L. Carroll*, Leena Riekkola, Virginia Andrews-Goff, C. Scott Baker, Rochelle Constantine, Ros Cole, Kim Goetz, Robert Harcourt, David Lundquist, Catherine Meyer, Mike Ogle, Richard O’Rorke, Nathalie Patenaude, Rodney Russ, Esther Stuck, Aimee L. van der Reis, Alexandre N. Zerbini, Simon Childerhouse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

Changes in habitat availability and prey abundance are predicted to adversely influence survival and reproduction of wildlife in the Southern Ocean. Some populations of southern right whale (SRW; Eubalaena australis) are showing dramatic changes in habitat use. Surveys were undertaken in the austral winters of 2020 and 2021 at the key nursery and socialising ground for New Zealand SRWs: Port Ross, Auckland Islands, with 548 encounters and 599 skin biopsy samples collected. Data from these two surveys spanned peak periods of use and were used to test the hypothesis there have been shifts in the phenology, demographic composition and behaviour of SRWs using the Auckland Islands over the past three decades. The behavioural phenology and demographic composition of SRW resembles that observed in the 1990s. In contrast, the proportion of groups containing cow-calf pairs increased from 20% in the 1998 survey to 50% in 2020/21. These changes are consistent with a growing population undergoing strong recruitment, not limited by food resources. Continued use of Port Ross by all SRW demographic classes confirms this as key habitat for SRW in New Zealand waters, and we support increased enforcement of existing management measures to reduce whale-vessel interactions in this remote subantarctic archipelago.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1441-1458
Number of pages18
JournalPolar Biology
Volume45
Issue number8
Early online date30 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • Migratory habitat
  • Anthropogenic impacts
  • Human impacts

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