EXPLORERS: Members of the CPUT research team, which forms part of the current international collaborative research programme, investigating the responses of recovering whale populations.
Two Department of Conservation and Marine Science research groups have embarked on a seven-week research cruise to the Antarctic on the SA Agulhas II.
The first group called the Plankton Team is led by Conservation and Marine Sciences Lecturer, Dr David Walker, and is investigating plankton dynamics. The other group, Marine Mammal Team, is led by CPUT Research Chair: Oceans Economy: Centre for Sustainable Oceans, Prof Kenneth Findlay. The latter group is researching whale distributions under the international collaborative project titled, “Humpback Whales under a Changing Climate”.
Both teams are part of the South African National Antarctic Programme Southern oCean seAsonal Experiment (SANAP SCALE) project.
Findlay said some 220 000 humpback whales were taken from the Southern Hemisphere by the modern whaling industry between 1904 and international protection in 1963, although there were considerable illegal catches thereafter. He added that the termination of whaling some half century ago has allowed for populations to show marked recoveries.
“However, recovering whale populations face new threats including climate change,” he said. “CPUT has an international collaborative research programme investigating the responses of recovering whale populations, to climate change, particularly humpback whales.
“The University has an opportunity to collect whale distribution data from the SA Agulhas II on the forthcoming Scale Cruise to the Southern Ocean between 11 October and 30 November 2019.”
The dedicated whale observer team will observe from a suitable high vantage point during daylight hours while the vessel is underway to record distribution patterns in relation to environmental observations such as current dynamics so that current distributions can be compared to historic distributions.
Research Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Oceans at CPUT, Dr Elisa Seyboth, said: “Having conducted my PhD investigating humpback whales in the Antarctic Peninsula, with the Brazilian Antarctic Programme, Proantar, I am excited to be heading to a new area of the Southern Ocean, south of South Africa, and to be collaborating with a new group of African researchers within the SANAP Scale Project.”
Written by Aphiwe Boyce