Monitoring Population Dynamics of ‘Western’ Right Whales off Southern Australia 2018-2021 - Final Report on activities for 2019

Annual aerial surveys of Australia’s ‘western’ population of southern right whales have been conducted between Cape Leeuwin, WA, and Ceduna, SA, since 1993 to monitor recovery from commercial whaling. The latest Hub-funded survey extended for seven days in August 2019. In 40 flying hours, 1111 right whales were sighted, including 425 calves, and 299 images were selected for computer-assisted ‘matching’ via the ARWPIC catalogue. The resulting population size estimate for ‘western’ Australian sub-population is 3164 whales. Estimates from 2018 and 2019 are the largest for the population since 1993 and are consistent with an increasing population trend of approximately 6% per year (based on counts of cow/calf pairs). Considerable annual variation in whale numbers, and cycles in population growth, makes it difficult to detect reliable annual changes in abundance and supports a continued sampling frequency of annual surveys.

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