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Whale Tracking

Whale tracking is a useful tool to understand whale migration patterns as well as other whale behaviour such as dive depths, dive duration and amount of time spent on the surface.

Tags are attached to the whale by implanting a pointed tip into the blubber layer, high on the back of the whale and directly behind the blow hole. Studies have showed that this procedure does not cause the animal any harm or serious stress.

Satellite tagging can be a very expensive exercise, since it involves not only the cost of travelling to find the whale and the tagging operation itself, but also the cost of the tag and the satellite transmission. Additionally, many times the tags fall off or simply do not work properly.

Some Examples of Whale Tracking

In 2007 Greenpeace launched the Great Whale Trail, a project that uses satellite tracking to illustrate the migration of Humpback whales from their breeding grounds in the South Pacific (New Caledonia and Cook Islands) to their feeding grounds in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The program’s aim is also to prove that there is no need for scientific whaling.

In October 2009, 16 Humpback whales were fitted with tracking tags as they passed Eden (south coast of NSW). Their movements were tracked during 6 months and revealed interesting migration patterns, including the fact that some travel via New Zealand and spend longer time in temperate waters than previously thought.

As technology improves and whale tracking becomes more sophisticated, it is expected that this research method will become increasingly common.

  • NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
  • NSW