New projects to study marine mammals

Humpback whale tail
Humpback Whale (Photo: Nick Gales)
11 May 2007

The Australian Government today announced details of 15 new research projects on the management and conservation of marine mammals.

Announcing the new funding of $800,000 at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) in Hobart, the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull said the projects would be undertaken through the AAD's Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science.

"This priority research will focus on whales, dolphins, sea lions and dugongs, in Australian waters," Mr Turnbull said.

"In particular it will investigate marine mammal population structure, distribution and abundance; population threats; management of risk and mitigation; and non-lethal study techniques."

In 2006, the Australian Government set aside $2.5 million over four years for the Centre.

This new funding has been allocated from the Government's $100 million Commonwealth Environment Research Facility (CERF) and Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) fund.

Projects include:

  • studying the social dynamics of mass stranding of long-finned pilot whales in Tasmania;
  • estimating the abundance of the east Australian humpback whale population;
  • satellite tracking of baleen whales;
  • exploring ways to determine the age of marine mammals using tooth structure;
  • developing monitoring methods for the threatened Australian sea lion;
  • looking at interactions between gillnet fisheries and Australian sea lions in Western Australia;
  • studying dugong numbers and distribution in the Gulf of Carpentaria to help improve conservation planning and management;
  • using population models to assist in negotiations between Traditional Owners and management agencies in Torres Strait; and
  • using genetic information to identify the gender of individuals dugongs.

"The vast array of information gathered will help us to better understand our marine mammals and go a long way towards their improved management into the future," Mr Turnbull said.

The Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science is a centre of excellence, bringing together the best marine mammal scientists from research institutions around the country.