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Modern and historical data identify sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) habitat offshore of south-western Australia

Johnson, Christopher (2013) Modern and historical data identify sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) habitat offshore of south-western Australia. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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The distribution and use of pelagic habitat by sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) is generally poorly understood in Western Australia. However, a variety of data are becoming available via online portals where records of historical expeditions, commercial whaling operations, and modern scientific research voyages can now be accessed. Crowdsourcing these online data allows collation of presence-only information of offshore animals such as sperm whales and provides a valuable tool to help augment areas of poor research effort and fill in the gaps. Four data sources were examined, the primary one being the Voyage of the Odyssey expedition, a five-year global study of sperm whales and ocean pollution. From December 2001-May 2002, researchers surveyed 5200 nautical miles off Western Australia including historical whaling grounds off Albany and the Perth Canyon, an area previously known for pygmy blue whale distribution, using acoustic techniques and obtained 57 tissue biopsies. To augment areas not surveyed by the RV Odyssey, historical Yankee whaling data, commercial whaling data, and citizen science reports of sperm whale sightings were used. Using Maxent, a species distribution modeling tool, we found that the submarine canyons off Albany and Perth provide important habitat for sperm whales. Recent management measures implemented by the Australian government in this region were evaluated with respect to the sperm whale distribution model and only 1.8% of their predicted habitat occurs within a designated IUCN marine protected area restricting offshore activities.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor(s): Beckley, Lynnath and Kobryn, Halina
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