Polar Biology

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 95–106 | Cite as

Demography and ecology of southern right whales Eubalaena australis wintering at sub-Antarctic Campbell Island, New Zealand

  • Leigh G. TorresEmail author
  • Will Rayment
  • Carlos Olavarría
  • David R. Thompson
  • Brittany Graham
  • C. Scott Baker
  • Nathalie Patenaude
  • Sarah Jane Bury
  • Laura Boren
  • Graham Parker
  • Emma L. Carroll
Original Paper


Since the decimation of the southern right whale Eubalaena australis population in New Zealand by whaling, research on its recovery has focused on the wintering ground at the Auckland Islands, neglecting potentially important wintering habitat at Campbell Island. For the first time in 20 years we conducted an expedition to sub-Antarctic Campbell Island to document and describe E. australis occupying this wintering habitat. We used a variety of methods including photo-identification, genetic and stable isotope analyses of tissue samples, and visual surveys of abundance and distribution, to provide details on the demography, population connectivity and ecology of E. australis wintering at Campbell Island. Our primary findings include (1) a lack of calves observed at Campbell Island, (2) an age-class bias toward sub-adults encountered at Campbell Island, (3) nine photo-identification matches between individuals observed at Campbell Island and previously documented elsewhere in New Zealand, (4) no genetic differentiation between E. australis at Campbell Island and the broader New Zealand population, (5) increased abundance estimates of E. australis at Campbell Island over the last 20 years, and (6) indications that E. australis forage within the sub-Antarctic region based on stable isotope analyses. Our results confirm that the Auckland Islands are currently the only significant calving area for E. australis in New Zealand, and therefore previous abundance estimates based on demographic data from the Auckland Islands are applicable to the entire New Zealand population of E. australis. However, future periodic surveys to Campbell Island are recommended to monitor population recovery and expansion.


Age-class Genetic analysis Population connectivity Stable isotope Sub-Antarctic Wintering ground Parentage analysis 



Funding for this project was supported by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Ltd. (NIWA), and the New Zealand Department of Conservation. We are grateful to R. Constantine for assistance and equipment related to biopsy sample collection, to T. Webster for confirming photo-ID matches, and to S. Childerhouse for the incorporation of genetic data collected at the Auckland Islands. Thanks to D. Steel and A. Sremba for help with genetic analyses at Oregon State University, USA. Stable isotope analyses were conducted at the NIWA stable isotope laboratory in Wellington, New Zealand by A. Kilimnik and J. Brown. We also thank Henk Haazen (captain) and Keith Jacob (crew) of the RV Tiama for safe transport and assistance with data collection and logistics.

Supplementary material

300_2016_1926_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (64 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 63 kb)
300_2016_1926_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (84 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 83 kb)
300_2016_1926_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (139 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 138 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leigh G. Torres
    • 1
    Email author
  • Will Rayment
    • 2
  • Carlos Olavarría
    • 3
  • David R. Thompson
    • 4
  • Brittany Graham
    • 4
  • C. Scott Baker
    • 1
  • Nathalie Patenaude
    • 5
  • Sarah Jane Bury
    • 4
  • Laura Boren
    • 6
  • Graham Parker
    • 7
  • Emma L. Carroll
    • 8
  1. 1.Marine Mammal Institute and Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Hatfield Marine Science CenterOregon State UniversityNewportUSA
  2. 2.Department of Marine ScienceUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  3. 3.NelsonNew Zealand
  4. 4.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd.WellingtonNew Zealand
  5. 5.Collégial International Sainte-AnneLachineCanada
  6. 6.New Zealand Department of ConservationWellingtonNew Zealand
  7. 7.Parker ConservationDunedinNew Zealand
  8. 8.Scottish Oceans Institute, School of BiologyUniversity of St AndrewsFifeScotland, UK

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