Australia hits out at Japan at whale research launch

October 4, 2012
File photo shows two harpooned whales, a mother and a calf (R) being dragged on board a Japanese whaling ship in Antarctic waters. Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke has hit out at Japan's "alleged" scientific whaling as researchers hailed the testing of new acoustic tracking technology for the endangered blue whale.

Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke Thursday hit out at Japan's "alleged" scientific whaling as researchers hailed the testing of new acoustic tracking technology for the endangered blue whale.

Burke was given a demonstration of the science in the city of Hobart, where he applauded the innovation and dedication of those working to find out more about the threatened species—the largest animal that has ever lived.

"Blue whales are under threat of and improved will help in the conservation and recovery of the species," he said of a creature that can grow to 31 metres (102 feet).

"This research reinforces Australia's commitment to non-lethal research of whales. This contrasts with Japan's so-called 'scientific whaling' where the alleged research begins with a .

"This breakthrough project again shows you don't have to kill a whale to study it."

is banned under an international treaty but Japan has since 1987 used a loophole to carry out "lethal research" on the creatures in the name of science.

Australian Antarctic scientists successfully tested the technology to track and locate scores of blue whales hundreds of kilometres away by eavesdropping on the elusive animals' resonating song.

By using sound rather than sight to initially detect them, the scientists significantly improved the likelihood of finding and counting whales in the vast .

The research is part of an Australian-led international project to estimate the abundance, distribution and behaviour of the species that was decimated in the early 1900s when whaling killed approximately 250,000 animals.

Around 10,000 are now believed to populate the world's oceans.

To test the technology, a team of scientists deployed directional sonobuoys in the northern Bass Strait in January and March this year.

Team leader Mike Double said that over 20 days there were 103 sightings.

"While are the largest animals on earth, growing up to 31 metres long, they're still very difficult to find in a vast ocean and we know very little about them," Double said.

"The real-time passive acoustic tracking system was highly effective at picking up their low frequency calls from hundreds of kilometres of away, thus maximising our chance of locating them."

The sonobuoys allowed researchers to record more than 500 hours of audio including more than 20,000 blue whale vocalisations.

Once the were located they were photographed and biopsied for further identification.

The technology will now be used in the Antarctic Blue Whale Project, which will estimate their abundance and migration patterns in January next year.

Explore further: Australia: Japan's whaling program a sham

Related Stories

Australia: Japan's whaling program a sham

March 28, 2006

Australian officials say a 10-year project examining whales off Australia's Antarctic territory prove Japan's whaling program has no scientific basis.

Australia: Japan whale research 'bizarre'

March 8, 2008

Australian scientists say that Japanese research on whales, the justification for its whaling program, has produced few results and is often "strange."

Recommended for you

Secrets of a heat-loving microbe unlocked

September 4, 2015

Scientists studying how a heat-loving microbe transfers its DNA from one generation to the next say it could further our understanding of an extraordinary superbug.

Plants also suffer from stress

September 4, 2015

High salt in soil dramatically stresses plant biology and reduces the growth and yield of crops. Now researchers have found specific proteins that allow plants to grow better under salt stress, and may help breed future generations ...

How nature punches back at giant viruses

September 4, 2015

(Phys.org)—What have viruses ever done for humans? The question is debatable, but given the prevalence of highly contagious, and sometimes life-threatening illnesses caused by viruses, it's fair to say that most people ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.