Monitoring Humpback Whales in the South Pacific

The goal of this study is to maintain long-term continuous monitoring of humpback whales in  East Australia (breeding stock E-1) while also documenting the presence and use of this area by  other cetaceans. From these data we provide science-based recommendations to resource  managers and stakeholders to contribute to cetacean management strategies.

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are known as a cosmopolitan species; their  feeding or breeding grounds are in every ocean on the planet, and they travel thousands of  kilometers between them. Because of their vast usage of a variety of ocean ecosystems, long term monitoring of their populations helps researchersto better understand changes over time  within the ocean as it relates to this species.

This East Australian population segment use the Antarctic waters as their feeding ground,  spending approximately half the year feeding continuously on the abundance of krill provided  by the nutrient-rich waters of the deep Southern Ocean. Humpback whales live on the fat  reserves accumulated in this time to survive them through their roundtrip migration, and for  maternal whales, through the birthing process and first nursing months of their calves’ life.

Studying the complex and encompassing lives of the humpback whale sheds light not only on the health of the animal, but on its habitat and population status.

In order to better inform management of humpback whales that migrate annually along the  coast of East Australia, we monitor trends in their abundance, distribution, health and  population status. Data are collected during systematic research surveys and aboard platforms  of opportunity in Hervey Bay and other locations along the coast. We collect a variety of data to gain a broad understanding of individual and population-level metrics, including photo identification, behavioural observations, and UAS morphometrics.

  • Project Partners

    Susan Bengston Nash, Griffith University
    Ted Cheeseman, Southern Cross University and Happywhale
    Daniele Cagnazzi, Southern Cross University
    Olaf Meynecke, Griffith University

  • Recent Publications

    2019: Stack, S.H., Currie, J.J., McCordic, J.A., Machernis, A.F. & Olson, G.L. Distribution patterns  of east Australia humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Hervey Bay, Queensland: a  historical perspective. Australian Mammalogy

    2014: Constantine, R, Steel, D, Allen, J, Anderson, M, Andrews, O, Baker, CS, Beeman, P, Burns,  D, Charrassin, J-B, Childerhouse, S, Double, M, Ensor, P, Franklin, T, Franklin, W, Gales, N,  Garrigue, C, Gibbs, N, Harrison, P, Hauser, N, Hutsel, A, Jenner, C, Jenner, M-N, Kaufman, G,  Macie, A, Mattila, D, Olavarria, C, Oosterman, A, Paton, D, Poole, M, Robbins, J, Schmitt, N,  Stevick, P, Tagarino, A, Thompson, K, and Ward, J. Remote Antarctic feeding ground important  for east Australian humpback whales. Marine Biology 161: 1087-1093.

    2013: Rankin, R.W., Maldini, D. and Kaufman, G. Bayesian estimate of Australian humpback  whale calving interval under sparse resighting rates: 1987 – 2009. Journal of Cetacean Research  Management 13(2): 109-12.

    *For a full list of our research publications, click here:


Hawaii Visitor Update

Aloha, We Are Open!  Our PacWhale Eco-Adventures are open for booking as we welcome visitors back to Maui.  Quarantine restrictions were lifted on Oct. 15th for those following the state’s pre-arrival COVID-19 testing requirements.