Overview of minke whale sightings surveys conducted on IWC/IDCR and SOWER Antarctic cruises from 1978/79 to 2000/01

Main Article Content

Koji Matsuoka
Paul Ensor
Takashi Hakamada
Hiroyuki Shimada
Shigetoshi Nishiwaki
Fujio Kasamatsu
Hidehiro Kato


The IWC Southern Hemisphere minke whale assessment cruises (IDCR and SOWER) have been conducted since 1978/79 in the Antarctic regions of all six IWC management Areas for baleen whales (covering all, or more recently, part, of one Area each season). During the 23-year history of the programme to 2000/01, a total search distance on primary effort of 70,340 n.miles has been achieved during 2,448 ship-days in the Antarctic. A total of 6,027 primary minke whale school sightings were recorded. Over the years, there have been two major and some minor modifications to the survey design as a result of the development of survey procedures. These developments represent the best possible compromise between statistical needs and logistics. This paper outlines the most significant modifications that have occurred to the research equipment, protocols and data collection. Some preliminary results are also included. From 1985/86, the beginning of the second circumpolar set of cruises, the programme (initially a combination of Discovery marking and sightings) became essentially a dedicated line-transect systematic sightings cruise only. Modification of the survey design from the third circumpolar set of cruises (from 1991/92), to cover the whole region south of 60°S in the Antarctic resulted in a change in emphasis of the latitudinal coverage, especially in Areas I, II, III and V; the implications of this are discussed. The paper also describes: guidelines for the identification of minke whales; methods used for assessment of duplicate status in passing mode with independent observer; the protocol used for conducting the estimated angle and distance experiment; and methods used for determining the southern boundary of the research area (ice-edge). The programme has also enabled collection of biopsy, photo-identification, oceanographic and acoustic samples, and can be adapted to research programmes in other parts of the world. It is concluded that the programme has developed and established standard sighting procedures and has also improved the precision of whale identification standards in the Southern Ocean.

Article Details


Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 > >>