Whale migration season has started in the south-west, with pygmy blue whales and humpback whales travelling through the sheltered waters of Geographe Bay. Every year, scientists converge in the south to study these amazing animals, but this year we need your help to get us down there to do this vital research!
Geographe Bay in the south-west of Western Australia provides essential habitat for whales such as pygmy blue, humpback and southern right whales. All these species were driven to near extinction in the last century due to commercial whaling. Although humpback whales are now recovering in Western Australia, southern right whales are still critically endangered. There is not currently enough information to estimate the population size for pygmy blue whales but their numbers are thought to be around 10,000 worldwide, which still marks them as an endangered species.
As a result, these whale species require consistent monitoring. In 1994, Chris Burton (Western Whale Research; WWR) began studying whales in Geographe Bay, collecting behavioural, photo-ID, distribution and abundance data on these species from a small vessel. In 2003, WWR partnered with the Dunsborough Coast and Landcare (D-CALC) group to begin a land-based research project monitoring whales travelling through the bay with the help of local volunteers. In 2008, this collaboration extended to include the Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) from Curtin University, who began conducting acoustic monitoring and theodolite tracking of whales in Geographe Bay. In 2010, the Southwest Whale Ecology Study (SouWEST) was born, a formal collaboration of WWR, D-CALC and CMST, which aims to ensure the long-term conservation of whales and their critical habitats in south-western Australia.
However, to achieve this aim, it is crucial to maintain the long-term data sets of whales in the southwest. Every year, SouWEST scientists converge in the south to study these amazing animals, but this year we need your help to get us down there to conduct this vital research.
We are running a campaign via GoFundMe, an online crowd-funding platform. Donations received from this campaign will help accommodate and feed researchers, pay for a hire car to transport them to and from the field site, and help researchers track whale movements and behaviours, record whale vocalisations, and take photos of whales for individual identification.
Without your help we may not be able to run the research this season. Please help us to help the whales by supporting our research this year! By continuing our long-term research program, we will understand how to better manage special areas, such as Geographe Bay, to ensure whale survival into the future.
Your moral support, monetary donations, and help in spreading the word through social media are all greatly appreciated by SouWEST. To get involved, visit our campaign site here. Our team (and the whales) will be incredibly thankful for your contribution!