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Crowdsourcing Moby Dick! Modern and historical data identify sperm whale habitat offshore of SW Australia

Johnson, C.M., Kerr, I., Payne, R., Kobryn, H.ORCID: 0000-0003-1004-7593 and Beckley, L.E. (2013) Crowdsourcing Moby Dick! Modern and historical data identify sperm whale habitat offshore of SW Australia. In: AMSA2013 Golden Jubilee Conference, 7 - 11 July, Gold Coast, Qld, Australia.


The distribution and use of the pelagic habitat by sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) is generally poorly understood in Western Australia. However, a variety of data are becoming available to researchers via online portals from where records of historical expeditions, commercial whaling operations, and modern scientific research voyages can be accessed. Crowdsourcing these data from online sources allows collation of presence/absence 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 identifying critical habitat in the region. 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 to obtain 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. 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 are evaluated with respect to sperm whales.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
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