Seasonal acoustic presence of blue, fin, and minke whales off the Juan Fernández Archipelago, Chile (2007–2016)


The southeast Pacific (SEP) contains the home ranges of several migratory large whale species, determined largely based on research in coastal waters. These whales’ pelagic seasonal residency is unknown. The Juan Fernández Archipelago (JFA) is an offshore island in the SEP where passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) data collection is ongoing at the HA03 hydroacoustic station (sample rate of 250 Hz) maintained by the Preparatory Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. Six years (2007–2009 and 2014–2016) of PAM data from HA03 were examined for the acoustic presence of Antarctic, Chilean (southeast Pacific 1, southeast Pacific 2), and southeast Indian Ocean blue whale song types; the fin whale 20-Hz song; and minke whale vocalizations. The weekly presence or absence of these six vocalization types was annotated manually by an expert analyst and then averaged across all years. For each vocalization type, the number of weeks per month with presence was averaged over all years. Consistently, we found austral wintertime presence of Antarctic blue, fin, and minke whales; and the year-round presence of Chilean blue whales. Southeast Indian Ocean blue whales were also detected, but very rarely. We discuss the possible seasonal movements of each species or acoustic group in the offshore SEP. This is the first year-round multispecies study of baleen whale in the offshore SEP and provides valuable information for understanding the migrations of endangered baleen whales in this region, highlighting the importance of offshore areas as hotspots for baleen whale biodiversity.

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We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments, which helped to significantly improve this manuscript. We would like to thank the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and the Chilean Commission of Nuclear Energy (CCHEN) for proving the data used in this study.


S.J.B. and N.B.C. were supported by COPAS Sur-Austral ANID PIA APOYO CCTE AFB170006. S.J.B. was also supported during analysis and writing by a grant to the Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA) from CONICYT Fortalecimiento de Centros Regionales, Programa Regional R16A10003.

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Correspondence to Susannah J. Buchan.

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Buchan, S.J., Balcazar-Cabrera, N. & Stafford, K.M. Seasonal acoustic presence of blue, fin, and minke whales off the Juan Fernández Archipelago, Chile (2007–2016). Mar. Biodivers. 50, 76 (2020).

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  • Baleen whales
  • Southeast Pacific
  • Seamounts
  • Passive acoustic monitoring
  • Bioacoustics