Humpback whale numbers recover off Queensland but new risks threaten survival


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March 04, 2019 15: 19: 31

The Australian humpback whale population has actually recuperated from near-extinction connected to searching, but new Queensland research study cautions that numbers might quickly fall once again due to the results of environment modification.

Bottom line:

  • Humpback whale types has actually recuperated quickly given that business whaling ended in 1962, balancing a 10.9pc boost annually
  • Scientist stay anxious the whale population might be overshooting the bring capability of the environment to preserve its numbers
  • If there was going to be a whale population crash, scientists state the modelling recommends it will be quickly

The University of Queensland (UQ) research study kept an eye on humpback whales moving previous North Stradbroke Island off Brisbane on the southern Queensland coast, over a 12-year duration.

Partner Teacher Michael Noad stated the types had actually recuperated quickly given that business whaling ended in 1962, balancing a 10.9 percent boost annually.

“The good news is that the whales have recovered, but the bad news is that the whales don’t seem to have realised that,” he stated.

“Australian humpback whales were hunted to really, really low numbers — nearly entirely erased by the early 1960s — but given that we have actually begun [taking] studies, the population has actually basically been doubling every 7 years approximately.

“The last study in 2015 discovered that the population has actually basically recuperated back to our finest guess of the population prior to whaling in the 1950s, reaching an approximated 25,000 whales.”

Population boom might result in bust

In spite of fortunately, Dr Noad feared the types still dealt with numerous dangers.

“We don’t really know what is going to happen in the future, but we worry that the population may in fact be overshooting the carrying capacity of the environment to maintain that population, so we might see a spike in the population followed by a crash,” he stated.

He stated if there was going to be a crash, the modelling recommended it would be quickly.

“The thing that’s most likely to have an impact on these whales is them starting to run out of krill in the Antarctic … and we predict that to happen somewhere between 2021 and 2026,” he stated.

“On one hand they’re recovering quickly, but these whales are also threatened by climate change and its impact on Antarctic krill, their main food source.”

‘It’s a bit like counting sheep’

The most current information was gathered in 2015 by researchers observing whales from a platform at Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island off Brisbane.

“This is a fantastic place to monitor the whales because they come very close to the headland,” Dr Noad stated.

“We know that about 80 per cent of the population passes within 5 kilometres of the headland, so they’re easy to see — it’s a bit like counting sheep as they go through a gate.”

If there was a population crash, it might have numerous repercussions for Queensland.

“There’ll certainly be fewer whales and those whales might be struggling — you might be seeing sick calves not in good condition and that could have an impact on the east coast whale watching industry, which is worth more than $100 million to the economy,” Dr Noad stated.

“We are very likely to see an increase in the number of strandings as well — possibly sick whales beaching themselves, and also whales that die at sea will represent a shipping hazard.”

The research study has actually been released in the clinical journal Population Ecology.

Subjects:

mammals—whales,

animal-science,

science-and-technology,

research,

environment,

endangered-and-protected-species,

brisbane-4000,

southport-4215,

dunwich-4183,

qld,

australia

First published

March 04, 2019 14: 32: 05

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About the Author: Dr. James Goodall

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