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WA's South Coast a killer whale feeding hotspot

Thursday, 25 June 2020

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Researchers have uncovered more information about the numbers and habits of killer whales in south Western Australian waters, providing the first baseline assessment of the species’ occupancy patterns in the Bremer Sub Basin area.

The unique local marine environment provides the whales with a bountiful food source and the large number of whales in a small area has transformed the Bremer Bay area into an international tourist phenomenon.

Edith Cowan University Associate Professor and Curtin University Adjunct Associate Research Fellow Chandra Salgado Kent worked with Professor Christine Erbe and PhD candidate Rebecca Wellard at Curtin University on the project.

Wildlife tourism vessels operating in the area were used to help collect the study data, a collaborative approach that allowed the researchers to learn more about the notoriously difficult to monitor cetaceans in the region, in a time and cost-efficient manner.

Professor Salgado Kent explained the aquatic mammals travel widely, and seasonally congregate in canyon-like areas that are not necessarily easy to access from shore.

“Observational studies are expensive, and because of this, they are often limited.  Wildlife-based tourism, however, is happening in this area,” Professor Salgado Kent said.

“By having observers board regularly scheduled tourism trips, our research successfully combined the research with industry.”

The research will enable a greater understanding of the potential impacts of human activities on local whale populations.

Watch Professor Salgado Kent talking about how wildlife tourism can help to study killer whales on the Australian Academy of Science vimeo channel.

Learn more about the project in this Curtin University news article.

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