Progress Report on the intersessional working group “Multi-ocean assessment of southern right whale demographic parameters and links to environmental correlates”, June 2019 to May 2020.
C. Charlton, E. Vermeulen, E. L. Carroll, D. Butterworth, J. Cooke, A. Ross-Gillespie, A. Brandao, K. Groch, R. Leaper, W. Rayment, V. Rowntree, M. Sironi, G. Vandenberg, M. Watson, M. Double, J. Jackson
International Whaling Commission
The International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee (IWC SC) Southern Hemisphere (SH) subcommittee intersessional working group (WG) was established during SC68A and aimed to: seek funding to enable the project to advance, collate relevant southern right whale (SRW, Eubalaena australis) photo and genotype identification datasets and document regional progress of demographic assessments in SH wintering grounds as a critical step towards meeting the overall project objectives.
The project objective is to compare SRW population demographics across the main SH wintering grounds, by applying a common demographic model to the SRW populations in each region, and ultimately investigate correlations between SRW abundance trends/calving intervals and environmental variables in the Southern Ocean.
In summary, the key progress made between June 2019 and May 2020 includes:
• IWC Southern Ocean Research Partnership (IWC-SORP) funding proposal submitted in January 2020 to facilitate project advancement
• A SRW workshop was held at the World Marine Mammal Conference (WMMC) in Barcelona on 8 December 2019 during which a proposed common model approach was presented by Butterworth (see SC68b/SH/XX for workshop report).
• Photo identification comparison of SRWs in Brazil and Argentina with funding awarded during SC/68A and has been completed (see SC68b/CMP/XX)
• Nearly completion of the revised population model for South African SRW population by Brandao, Ross-Gillespie and Butterworth.
• Progress made towards assessing links between demographics and climate in South Africa (Vermeulen et al. in prep), Argentina (Agrelo et al. in prep) and New Zealand (Johnston et al. in prep).
• Progress made towards collation and standardisation of existing SRW photo identification datasets in Australia through a National Environmental Science Program (NESP) funded project to assess national abundance and connectivity of SRWs.
• Completion of a revised population estimate of SRWs in the southeast of Australia by Stamation et al. (2020, SC/68a/ForInfo43) along with an assessment of calving intervals, site fidelity and long-range movements of SRWs in eastern Australia (Watson et al. in review).