Conservation Management Plan Review – is this a whaley good idea?

The Australian Government has released a draft copy of the new conservation management plan for blue whales. The plan covers aspects of blue whale biology, current legal protection, the possible threats faced by the species, and a list of actions required to aid recovery of blue whale populations.  This report is open for public comment until Friday 19th April 2013.  So if you want a voice in blue whale conservation in Australia, check out the report and submit your comments here: Draft Conservation Management Plan for the Blue Whale

There are two Southern Hemisphere subspecies of blue whale:  the Antarctic blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia) and the pygmy blue whale (B. m. brevicauda).  These are two genetically separate subspecies, which differ in size, body form, geographic range and vocalisation types.  These whales were commercially exploited, almost to the point of extinction, until very recently.  However, both subspecies of blue whale are still currently listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, and are potentially at risk from several threats that may affect the recovery of their populations.  Potential threats include habitat modification, disturbance by vessels, noise pollution, overharvesting of prey, and climate change.

The existing blue whale recovery plan requires updating to reflect new knowledge of these animals and the threats they face.  This in turn decides where scientists should be focusing their research efforts, and determines which important topics to highlight when applying for funding to support research.  The long-term objective of the plan is to improve the status of both subspecies so that they no longer meet the criteria for endangered species, ensuring these animals receive sufficient conservation and management to handle new threats.

Blue whale in Eagle Bay, WA (Photo: Sarah Marley)

Blue whale in Eagle Bay, WA (Photo: Sarah Marley)

At the end of the public comment period the plan will be revised, taking into consideration any comments received.  The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities will then consider the revised plan, as well as the comments received, when deciding on adoption of the plan.

This is our opportunity to be an active part of the decision-making process for protecting our environment and resources.  What do you think needs to be done in order to support and improve blue whale conservation?

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