The FINANCIAL — Innovative research has revealed why Bryde’s whales are so vulnerable to being killed by ships in the Hauraki Gulf, and University of Auckland scientists Dr Rochelle Constantine and Dr Natacha Aguilar are calling for speed restrictions to protect the endangered species.
According to The University of Auckland, the researchers used an innovative approach of attaching multi-sensor tags to the whales by suction cup, allowing their behaviour below the surface of the ocean to be tracked. The whales were found to spend most of their time at relatively shallow depths that bring them within striking range of ships entering the Hauraki Gulf.
The Hauraki Gulf has one of the few resident populations of Bryde’s whales in the world, but until recently relatively little was known about them. The research team had gathered records of 41 Bryde’s whale deaths in the region over the past 16 years and of 18 whales examined for cause of death, 15 were found to have died due to ship-strike making this the species’ main cause of mortality.
The research was led by Dr Constantine working with Dr Natacha Aguilar Soto of The University of Auckland and La Laguna University, Canary Islands, and Dr Mark Johnson from the University of St Andrews, Scotland. It was funded by the former Auckland Regional Council, The University of Auckland, and Department of Conservation. The work was published in a report distributed to stakeholders this month.