Rare blue whales have been spotted by NIWA scientists on a research expedition in the South Taranaki Bight. NIWA marine ecologist Dr Leigh Torres is leading a team of blue whale researchers in the Bight on a journey that aims to collect critical data to enhance understanding of the blue whale population in the region. In the past week, the team has observed nearly 50 blue whales.
The Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute is a collaborating sponsor of this research. Dr. Torres will be joining the MMI faculty in spring 2014.
Mate is now a professor in the department of fisheries and wildlife and is the director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Hatfield Marine Science Center.
"It's exciting evidence for a previously unrecognised species within the ancient lineage of Amazon river dolphins," says Scott Baker of Oregon State University in Newport. "Yet it's already rare, and its habitat is now fragmented by dams."
Second, if trade in whale meat is legalized, it could be difficult to identify black market meat. Monitoring and enforcement would be a challenge. "These problems are not easily solved," adds Scott Baker of Oregon State University, Corvallis. His molecular sleuthing of whalemeat markets has shows a large trade in illegal or unreported whale products. A return to commercial whaling, he suspects, would provide even greater incentives for illegal hunting.
“Though humpback whales are found in all oceans of the world, the North Pacific humpback whales should probably be considered a sub-species at an ocean-basin level – based on genetic isolation of these populations on an evolutionary time scale,” said Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center and lead author on the paper.
"Hambleton took the meat, froze it, and the following morning sent it by courier to Scott Baker, the associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and an expert in cetacean molecular genetics. Baker, who recently established a database of whale, dolphin, and porpoise DNA, identified the meat as sei, the fourth largest of the baleen whales." [The New Yorker, Nov. 4, 2013]
DUBLIN—Dr. Scott Baker, a pioneer in the use of DNA to better understand the population structure, abundance, and genetic diversity of dolphins and whales, spoke recently at University College Dublin about new research that could help shape conservation measures for North Pacific humpback whales.
MMI PhD student Renee Albertson is in the Austral Islands collecting data on whales and dolphins as part of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium. The results of this project will contribute to long-term, ongoing genetic and demographic studies of residency patterns and social organization among whales and dolphins throughout French Polynesia. Follow Renee’s adventure through her bilingual blog.
A new webcam has been installed at Newport’s popular sea lion haul out, Port Dock 1. This camera is monitored by the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network to check for injuries due to entanglements in fishery gear and marine debris. Sea lions periodically come ashore with plastic packing bands wrapped around their necks and fishing lures hanging from their mouths. A capture cage is sometimes deployed at this site to treat entangled sea lions.
The MMI's Bruce Mate will be leading a scientific team on a search for the "52-Hz whale" next fall. The expedition is planned as part of a documentary about the elusive whale and will involve tagging whales in the eastern North Pacific. Because it is possible to hear this distinctive whale over large distances, Dr. Mate's team will rely on the leadership of NOAA's Bob Dziak and the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab's access to fixed hydrophones in the North Pacific to guide the search, find the whale, and tag some of its cohorts.