Have whales returned to a historical hotspot of industrial whaling? The pattern of southern right whale Eubalaena australis recovery at South Georgia

Jackson, Jennifer A. ORCID:; Kennedy, Amy; Moore, Michael; Andriolo, Artur; Bamford, Connor ORCID:; Calderan, Susannah; Cheeseman, Ted; Gittins, George; Groch, Karina; Kelly, Natalie; Leaper, Russell; Leslie, Matthew S.; Lurcock, Sarah; Millar, Brian S.; Richardson, Jessica; Rowntree, Vicky; Smith, Patrick; Stepien, Emillie; Stowasser, Gabriele ORCID:; Trathan, Phil; Vermeulen, Els; Zerbini, Alexandre N.; Carroll, Emma L.. 2020 Have whales returned to a historical hotspot of industrial whaling? The pattern of southern right whale Eubalaena australis recovery at South Georgia. Endangered Species Research, 43. 323-339.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
Text (Open Access)
© The authors and the British Antarctic Survey 2020. Open Access under Creative Commons by Attribution Licence. Use, distribution and reproduction are unrestricted. Authors and original publication must be credited.
n043p323.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (2MB) | Preview


Around 176500 whales were killed in the sub-Antarctic waters off South Georgia (South Atlantic) between 1904 and 1965. In recent decades, whales have once again become summer visitors, with the southern right whale (SRW) the most commonly reported species until 2011. Here, we assess the distribution, temporal pattern, health status and likely prey of SRWs in these waters, combining observations from a summertime vessel-based expedition to South Georgia, stable isotope data collected from SRWs and putative prey and sightings reports collated by the South Georgia Museum. The expedition used directional acoustics and visual surveys to localise whales and collected skin biopsies and photo-IDs. During 76 h of visual observation effort over 19 expedition days, SRWs were encountered 15 times (~31 individuals). Photo-IDs, combined with publicly contributed images from commercial vessels, were reconciled and quality-controlled to form a catalogue of 6 fully (i.e. both sides) identified SRWs and 26 SRWs identified by either left or right sides. No photo-ID matches were found with lower-latitude calving grounds, but 3 whales had gull lesions supporting a direct link with Península Valdés, Argentina. The isotopic position of SRWs in the South Georgia food web suggests feeding on a combination of copepod and krill species. Opportunistic reports of SRW sightings and associated group sizes remain steady over time, while humpback whales provide a strong contrast, with increased sighting rates and group sizes seen since 2013. These data suggest a plateau in SRWs and an increasing humpback whale presence in South Georgia waters following the cessation of whaling.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 18635407
Additional Keywords: Eubalaena australis, Whale, Whaling, Antarctic, Recovery, Habitat use
Date made live: 06 Nov 2020 12:22 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...