New Zealand blue whale distribution and response to disturbance analysis underway to inform management decisions
Leigh G. Torres, Dawn R. Barlow and Holger Klinck
International Whaling Commission
With the documentation of a New Zealand blue whale population (Torres, 2013; Barlow et al., in press), including an important foraging ground in the industrial region of the South Taranaki Bight (STB), comes the need for improved ecological data to inform conservation management action. A priority item of the current New Zealand government is the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary in the STB to protect blue whales and other marine animals from industrial activity including oil and gas exploration and extraction, seabed mining, and vessel traffic. While this is an encouraging political move toward biodiversity and ecosystem protection, many basic aspects of blue whale ecology remain undetermined, such as distribution and habitat use patterns and response to noise disturbance. Here we describe two projects underway to fill these knowledge gaps, inform management decisions, and promote the establishment of an effective sanctuary.