According to the recent evaluation by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), humpback whales in Oceania (the South Pacific) are in danger of extinction. Although most of Oceania’s humpback whale populations are presently surveyed by research teams, a vast region that may harbor an important population remains incredibly understudied—the Tuamotu and Gambier Islands of French Polynesia.
During September 2010, the team will conduct boat-based research surveys to establish whether this region constitutes an important breeding ground harboring a distinct stock of humpback whales.
The study will allow the team to obtain a more complete understanding of humpback whales in French Polynesia, which is crucial for the conservation and management of this species throughout Oceania.
The study will likewise furnish preliminary data on other species of whales and dolphins in the region, specifically in the area of Fakarava, classed by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.
This project has three principal objectives:
1) Evaluate the presence of humpback whales in the Tuamotu and Gambier Islands and determine if this region is used as a breeding ground by this species. To determine if this region is a breeding ground, we will search for the presence of male singers, competitive groups of males accompanying a central female and females with calves.
2) Determine if humpback whales in the Tuamotu and Gambier Islands are part of the same population as those whales observed in the Society and Austral Islands. The question will be addressed using Dr. Poole’s photographic and genetic databases.
3) Conduct a census of all whale and dolphin species in the Tuamotu and Gambier Islands, and complete a description of the relative abundance and habitats of each. The state of cetacean populations in this region is, with rare exceptions, essentially unknown. Therefore, data will be collected on all species encountered to increase knowledge of the species and populations in the region.