South Pacific Whale Research Consortium

Overview | Executive Committee and Officers | Contacts | Articles, Reports & Links | Publications | Gallery


Ocean Voices Please have a look at the
PDF of the outcome of the Ocean Voices evening

Ocean Voices takes us on a journey through the past, present and future, weaving together inspiring human stories of whaling, conservation, research and custodianship of endangered, Pacific-born, humpback whales. Hosted by Tonga’s Royal Patron of Whales, HRH Princess Pilolevu Tuita, and MC’d by renowned actor Rawiri Paratene.

Ocean Voices will feature audio visual and spoken presentations culminating in a series of awards and international whale conservation announcements. Supper will be provided and drinks will be available at cost price before and after the event where there will be an opportunity to talk with the presenters.

Sat 17 April, 2010, 6pm–9pm, Auckland Museum Event Centre, $20

Places are very limited for this event.
To register go to www.aucklandmuseum.com

April 2010

Announcement of New Pacific Whale Sanctuary
International Expert Panel to Discuss Announcement, State of Global Whale Conservation
Media Release: PDF 217K

Tokelau Declares Newest Pacific Whale Sanctuary, Highlights Global Momentum for Whale Conservation
Announcement Bolsters Efforts to Safeguard Southern Ocean Sanctuary and
Enforce Whaling Moratorium at International Whaling Commission
Media release: PDF 147K


SPWRC Overview

SPWRCHumpback whales migrate each year to winter breeding grounds near islands and shallow banks in the tropical waters of Oceania (South Pacific) after feeding during summer in waters near the Antarctic. Humpback whales in Oceania were hunted first during the 19th century by "Yankee" style whaling vessels and more intensively during the 20th century by factory ships and modern shore-based operations. The last recorded catches of these whales were by the Kingdom of Tonga, prior to the 1978 Royal decree prohibiting this hunt. Recovery in the abundance of humpback whales in Oceania has been slow and variable. Sightings remain rare along the coast of New Zealand and around several island groups, such as Fiji, where they were once common. Only recently has a primary reason for this slow and variable recovery been revealed. As part of a systematic program of illegal whaling, Soviet factory ships killed almost 13,000 humpback whales in the Antarctic waters directly south of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania during the 1959-60 season. This precipitated a crash in the numbers of humpback whales throughout Oceania and may have resulted in the extinction of some local populations.

The South Pacific Whale Research Consortium (SPWRC) was formed by independent scientists to investigate the status of humpback and other whale species in the region of Oceania, including New Zealand and eastern Australia. Members have been involved in field studies initiated as early as 1991 in New Caledonia, the Kingdom of Tonga, the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, as well as eastern Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific coast of South America, the Ross Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula. Members of the SPWRC met at the University of Auckland from 9-12 April, 2001. The consortium now meets annually to compare and review data collected during each winter season, including individual identification photographs, genetic samples, sighting records and song recordings.

The primary purpose of the consortium is to coordinate and facilitate nonlethal research on large whales in the South Pacific region. Although humpback whales are the focus of much of the work, data are collected on all whales and the consortium serves to promote a better understanding of the biology and behavior of all cetacean, including the many species of dolphins found in this vast region (see Oremus et al. 2007). Documentation of the basic cetacean biodiversity of Oceania is a primary goal of the consortium. The principal field sites currently studied by the consortium and its members include French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga, New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Niue, American Samoa, Samoa, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, and eastern Australia, as well as the Antarctic feeding grounds. Collaborations include researchers along the coast of South America (Colombia and Chile) and in Western Australia.

» Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute: Cetacean Conservation Genetics Labb (CCGL)


Executive Committee and Officers

Scott Baker (University of Auckland and Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University), Phil Clapham (US National Marine Mammal Lab, Seattle), Rochelle Constantine (University of Auckland), Claire Garrigue (Operation Cetaces, New Caledonia), Nan Hauser (Cook Islands Whale Research), Mike Donoghue (New Zealand Department of Conservation), Michael Poole (French Polynesia), Mike Noad, (University of Queensland at Brisbane), Dave Paton (Southern Cross University)


Contact the SPWRC

The Secretariat
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
P.O. Box 3069
Avarua, Rarotonga
Cook Islands

E-mail: nan@whaleresearch.org or scott.baker@oregonstate.edu


Articles, Reports & links

Humpback Whale Survey in the Pacific: Scientific Study Invites Interest from Crews of Cruising Yachts
18 March 2010: Suite 101

During the Southern Hemisphere winter, humpback whales congregate around Niue. Their presence attracts the interest of scientists, and passing yachties can help.

In August/September 2010, the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium (SPWRC) will conduct a survey of humpback whales as they pass Niue on their south-bound migration. Support for the project has been secured from the Niue Government and NGO Oma Tafua, but more help is needed on and off the water. Read more

SPWRC Meeting Report: February 2009 (PDF 156K)

SPWRC Annual Report 2008 (PDF 311K)

SPWRC Meeting 2007: meeting 29 Jan - 2 Feb, 2007

SPWRC Report 2004: meeting 2-6 April, 2004

The 2004 SPWRC meeting was held in the first week of April in Byron Bay, Australia, to update on progress, effort, sample collection, genetics and acoustics across Oceania. Present at the meeting were representatives from countries across the region: French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Tonga, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Australia:

Scott Baker, Michael Donoghue, Claire Garrigue, Nan Hauser, Dave Paton, Mike Noad, Kirsty Russell, Rochelle Constantine, Peter Harrison, Debbie Steel, Simon Walsh, Eric Kniest, Adrian Oosterman, Dan Burns, Mick McIntyre, Olive Andrews, Merv Whicker, Wally Franklin, Trish Franklin, Christine Fury, Daniele Cagnazzi, Greg Luker, Josh Smith, Marc Oremus, Megan Anderson, Steven Powell.

SPWRC Report 2002: meeting 24-28 Feb, 2002

Olavarria et al paper: Population differentiation of humpback whales from far Polynesia (Group F breeding grounds) based on mitochondrial DNA sequences



Constantine, R., K. Russell, N. Gibbs, S. Childerhouse and C.S. Baker. 2007. Photo-identification of humpback whales in New Zealand waters and their migratory connections to breeding grounds of Oceania. Marine Mammal Science 23, 715–720. Link: DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00124.x

Oremus, M., M.M. Poole, D. Steel and C.S. Baker. 2007. Isolation and interchange among insular spinner dolphin communities in the South Pacific revealed by individual identification and genetic diversity. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. Link: http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps2007/336/m336p275.pdf

Olavarría, C., C. S. Baker, C. Garrigue, M. Poole, N. Hauser, S. Caballero, L. Flórez-González, M. Brasseur, J. Bannister, J. Capella, P.J. Clapham, R. Dodemont, M. Donoghue, C. Jenner, M.N. Jenner, D. Moro, M. Oremus, D.A. Paton and K. Russell. 2007. Population structure of humpback whales throughout the South Pacific and the origins of the eastern Polynesian breeding grounds. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. Link: http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps2007/330/m330p257.pdf

Garrigue, C., R. Dodemont, D. Steel and C.S. Baker. 2007. Organismal and "gametic" capture-recapture using microsatellite genotyping confirm low abundance and reproductive autonomy of humpback whales on the wintering grounds of New Caledonia. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 274: 251-262. Link: http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps2004/274/m274p251.pdf



Click on the images below for close up shots of SPWRC meetings: at work and at play.

SPWRC Meeting SPWRC Meeting SPWRC Meeting
Meeting room Consortium team at Byron Bay lighthouse Half the team ...
Nan, Mike, Rochelle and Kirsty Rochelle Rochelle, Nan and Kirsty
An early morning kayaking adventure
The girls Post kayak!


© Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation, 2004-13. All photos © Nan Hauser.
Please direct web comments and questions to: info@whaleresearch.org