MAJOR BLUE WHALE RESEARCH ANNOUNCED FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA
6th October 2023. A major marine research project ‘Bay Blues’, was announced in Western Australia. The project’s focus is on better understanding and protecting endangered pygmy blue whales.
Geographe Marine Research (GMR), based in Dunsborough, will coordinate the Bay Blues
project to track and study the pygmy blue whales which migrate seasonally along WA’s coast.
Chair Ian Wiese, said the project will be led by Dr Capri Jolliffe, recently seen on the ABC program Catalyst in its ‘Soundtrack of Australia’ series.
“Dr Jolliffe has gathered a multidisciplinary team of 12 scientists to satellite tag the pygmy blue whales, test genetics, collect acoustic data, measure body condition, and collect environmental DNA.
“This world class research by Australian scientists will contribute to filling critical gaps in knowledge to better manage and support the recovery of these whales in the southern hemisphere.
“Pygmy blues are a sub species of the blue whale, generally considered globally to be endangered. They are a smaller species, but still grow to around 24m and weigh up to 90 tonnes,” Mr Wiese said.
GMR, a not for profit organisation founded in 2021, is calling for volunteers to help in the undertaking.
“We are asking people to help provide day to day support of the team, who are all volunteers, and also to tell us when they see a blue whale in the bay during the project
period from the 2nd to the 15th of November.
“The project will be in full swing at the peak of the blue whale season with the team out in Geographe Bay daily. They will utilise a 15m charter boat, a 10m RHIB (inflatable boat), drones, cameras, and mobile acoustic recorders, ” Mr Wiese said.
The satellite tags will enable everyone, not just the scientists, to track the tagged whales, using an app, on their journey south.
“This is a high tech, expensive undertaking which has already received assistance, with reduced fees for boat charters, accommodation and equipment plus a Lottery West grant.
But the Bay Blues needs more financial help.
“One funding initiative is an offer of the naming rights of each tagged whale when a
business or group provides financial sponsorship,” Mr Wiese said.
“We’re expecting the community to become closely involved in watching on their phones where these whales go, after starting in Geographe Bay.”