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Monitoring of humpback whales in the Pender Bay, Kimberley Region, Western Australia

Blake, S., Dapson, I., Auge, O. and Bowles, A.J. (2011) Monitoring of humpback whales in the Pender Bay, Kimberley Region, Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 94 (2). pp. 393-405.

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Information and learnings from two years of independent and shore-based humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) surveys in the remote Kimberley region are presented. Systematic shore-based surveys were undertaken in 2009 and 2010 from the cliff top on the southern part of Pender Bay, Dampier Peninsula, Kimberley region, WA from the Two Moons Whale and Marine Research Base. The humpback whales use Pender Bay for a variety of purposes including calving, breeding, feeding (inferred), resting and staging. The results show the peak of the whale season to be in August with a relatively sharp increase in whale numbers occurring from mid July through to early August with whale numbers slowly decreasing from the end of August through to mid November. The whale numbers were higher in 2009 than 2010 and a range of environmental and meteorological variables have been compared to elucidate any trends. Mothers and calves predominated in the bay in September and October when the relative proportion of calves increased, indicating that Pender Bay was being used as a resting, feeding, calving and staging area. The ongoing challenge of monitoring humpback whales in this isolated part of the Kimberley is to manage the interplay between the availability of whale observers, an isolated location along the Kimberley coast and the amount of logistic support required to keep a field team in operation for the duration of the season which stretches from early June to mid November. We have therefore developed a pragmatic sampling technique, maximizing the observer effort based on an average four person team on the cliff top operating five hours per day.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Royal Society of Western Australia
Copyright: © Royal Society of Western Australia 2011
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