University Of Tasmania
135036 - New insights into prime Southern Ocean forage grounds.pdf (2.86 MB)

New insights into prime Southern Ocean forage grounds for thriving Western Australian humpback whales

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posted on 2023-05-20, 07:16 authored by Sophie BestleySophie Bestley, Andrews-Goff, V, van Wijk, E, Stephen Rintoul, Double, MC, How, J
Humpback whale populations migrate extensively between winter breeding grounds and summer feeding grounds, however known links to remote Antarctic feeding grounds remain limited in many cases. New satellite tracks detail humpback whale migration pathways from Western Australia into the Southern Ocean. These highlight a focal feeding area during austral spring and early summer at the southern Kerguelen plateau, in a western boundary current where a sharp northward turn and retroflection of ocean fronts occurs along the eastern plateau edge. The topographic steering of oceanographic features here likely supports a predictable, productive and persistent forage ground. The spatial distribution of whaling catches and Discovery era mark-recaptures confirms the importance of this region to Western Australian humpback whales since at least historical times. Movement modelling discriminates sex-related behaviours, with females moving faster during both transit and resident periods, which may be a consequence of size or indicate differential energetic requirements. Relatively short and directed migratory pathways overall, together with high-quality, reliable forage resources may provide a partial explanation for the ongoing strong recovery demonstrated by this population. The combination of new oceanographic information and movement data provides enhanced understanding of important biological processes, which are relevant within the context of the current spatial management and conservation efforts in the Southern Ocean.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

Scientific Reports



Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Nature Publishing Group

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© The Author(s) 2019. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems; Biodiversity in Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments