The art of tagging whales

Humpback whale breaching in front of Virginia Andrews Goff on the boat's bowsprit (Photo: Mick Davidson)
Humpback whale breaching in front of Dr Virginia Andrews Goff on the boat's bowsprit (Photo: Mick Davidson)
The boat searching for whales off the Tasman Peninsula (Photo: Mick Davidson)Virginia Andrews Goff practising deploying the satellite tags (Photo: Mick Davidson)

A steady hand, good sea-legs and an eagle eye are essential ingredients for scientists deploying satellite tags on whales off southern Tasmania.

The team of researchers from the Australian Antarctic Division has been practising deploying the tags and collecting skin biopsies on humpback whales ahead of a major Antarctic Blue Whale Research voyage planned for early next year.

Virginia Andrews-Goff is one of the scientists who have been specially trained to deploy the tags.

“We spent several weeks undergoing intensive firearms training, acquiring permits, ethics approvals and learning how to accurately deploy the tags so they implant below and slightly forward of the dorsal fin,” Virginia Andrews Goff said.

“It’s a real challenge to work with these huge animals from a small boat which is constantly moving around with the swell, you only get one chance to get a precise hit.”

“The team is now feeling pretty confident about deploying the tags and collecting biopsies on the world’s largest animal, the Blue Whale, when we head to Antarctica in January next year,” she said.