Blue whale photo-identifications reveal strong site fidelity to feeding areas from the Southeast Pacific and connectivity between southern Chile and Eastern Tropical Pacific
Barbara Galletti Vernazzani, Elsa Cabrera, Paula Olson, Sonia Espa?ol-Jimenez, Frederick Toro, Mar?a Jos? Perez-Alvarez, Guido Pavez, Rodrigo Moraga, Diego Cort?s-Pe?a, Isabella L. K. Clegg, Verena H?ussermann, Ken Findlay, Sheila Wright and Robert
Blue whales occur in the Southeast Pacific and Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) but little is known about their long-term movements. The Southern Hemisphere Blue Whale Catalogue is a platform to share individual photo-identification catalogues among blue whale research groups. Comparisons of 872 photo-identified blue whales from six different research groups working in southern and northern Chile and the ETP, as well as opportunistic sightings, provided 38 re-sightings. One match revealed information on the connectivity and migration of blue whales from southern Chile to the ETP. Other matches were found within southern Chile and within northern Chile, providing further evidence for strong site fidelity to feeding areas. The longest re-sighting occurred over 18 years, within southern Chile. One animal was seen 11 times on six different years, also within southern Chile. This is the first regional assessment of blue whale photo-identification and habitat use along the Southeast Pacific and the ETP. Our results highlight the importance of collaborative work to understand blue whale movements and migration, and show that some groups of whales use discrete feeding areas.