In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.
|EPBC Act Listing Status||Cetacean|
|Adopted/Made Recovery Plans|
|Policy Statements and Guidelines||
Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales (Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW), 2007h) [Admin Guideline].
Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005e) [Information Sheet].
|State Listing Status||
|Scientific name||Globicephala macrorhynchus |
This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.
Scientific name: Globicephala macrorhynchus
Common name: Short-finned Pilot Whale
Other names: Short-finned blackfish
The Short-finned Pilot Whale was described by Gray in 1846 as Globicephala macrorhynchus. This species appears to vary geographically, but no comprehensive study has been undertaken (Rice 1998). There is some evidence of distinct populations of Short-finned Pilot Whales, particularly off the Pacific coast of Japan (Kasuya et al. 1988; Miyazaki & Amano 1994) and in the eastern Pacific, but no subgroups have formally recognised to date (Olson & Reilly 2002; Rice 1998).
Pilot Whales have a robust body with a thick tail stock. The melon is exaggerated and bulbous and the beak is barely discernible or non-existent (Jefferson et al. 1993). The dorsal fin is wide, broad based, falcate and set well forward on the body. The slender and sickle-shaped flippers are relatively long at approximately one-sixth of the body length (Leatherwood & Reeves 1983). The grey mid-ventral line extends to the front into an anchor-shaped chest patch and widens posteriorly to a genital patch. This colouration is less vivid and extensive in Short-finned Pilot Whales, but the post-dorsal grey saddle patch may be large and conspicuous (Leatherwood & Reeves 1983). The Short-finned Pilot Whale has a wider skull than the long-finned species (Olson & Reilly 2002).
Biological data presented here are based on the southern Japanese form of Short-finned Pilot Whale (Donovan et al. 1993; Kasuya & Marsh 1984). Age and length at physical maturity for Short-Finned Pilot Whales is approximately 17 years and more than 5 m respectively. Male Short-finned Pilot Whales reach a maximum length and weight of 5.89 m and two tonnes, while females are smaller at 4.8 m and 1.5 tonnes, respectively (Ross 2006). Male Short-finned Pilot Whales reach a maximum age of 46 years, while females reach 63 years.
This species is socially cohesive, forming small groups of between 10 to 30 individuals, but Short-finned Pilot Whales are also commonly seen in groups of several hundred animals, often accompanied by dolphins, especially Bottlenose Dolphins (Bannister et al. 1996). In these mixed groups, male Pilot Whales and the dolphins tend to remain at the perimeter of the herd (Bannister et al. 1996). Sub-adult male Short-finned Pilot Whales appear to protect crèches of young (Bannister et al. 1996).
In the Australian region, Short-finned Pilot Whales occur in tropical (2232 °C) to temperate (1022 °C) oceanic waters, approaching coastal seas (Ross 2006). Relatively few stranding events have occurred in Australia, but have been recorded from all states and the Northern Territory (recorded until 1994). One stranding each has occurred in Victoria and Tasmania, two in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, three in both Queensland and NSW and eight in South Australia (Bannister et al. 1996; Chatto 2000; Chatto & Warneke 2000; McManus et al. 1984).
Although the southern records possibly reflect some observer bias and previous confusion with the Long-finned Pilot Whale, G. melas, they may reflect the influence of warm, south-flowing Indian and Pacific Ocean currents (Bannister et al. 1996).
The current extent of occurrence for Short-finned Pilot Whales is estimated to be greater than 20 000 km² (based on the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone (200 nm and north of about 41°S) (Ross 2006). Increasing ocean temperatures predicted by climate change scenarios could potentially increase the extent of occurrence, with warmer water extending southwards.
The area of occupancy of Short -finned Pilot Whales cannot be calculated due to the paucity of records for Australia. However, it is likely to be greater than 2 000 km²(Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.). Future expansion of high-seas pelagic fisheries may result in increased interactions with Short-finned Pilot Whales, including incidental catches and injury, potentially depleting local waters and leading to a decrease in area of occupancy.
Short-finned Pilot Whales are currently considered to occur in one location as there are no known unsurpassable fixed pelagic boundaries (Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.).
No distribution fragmentation is anticipated for the Short-finned Pilot Whale population (Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.).
Short-finned Pilot Whales occur in tropical and warm-temperate waters world-wide, between approximately 41°S and 45°N, their distribution extending into cold-temperate waters in the North Pacific (Bernard & Reilly 1999).
No global population estimate exists for the Short-finned Pilot Whale, but it is considered abundant globally (Reeves et al. 2003). It is estimated that there are about 150 000 Short-finned Pilot Whales in the eastern tropical Pacific (Wade & Gerrodette 1993) and about a thousand in shelf waters off the North American west coast (Carretta et al. 2001).
Off Japan the northern form of Short-finned Pilot Whale is estimated at only 4000 to 5000 individuals (Miyashita 1993). The Japanese population is still subject to small scale whaling with an annual quota of 50 individuals. Some experts consider the stock of the northern form of Short-finned Pilot Whale to be depleted (Reeves et al. 2003).
The population of southern form of Short-finned Pilot Whale off the Pacific coast of Japan is estimated to contain about 14 000 whales (Miyashita 1993). This southern-form stock is subject to small scale whaling, hand-harpoon whaling, and drive whaling, at an annual quota of 450 whales (Reeves et al. 2003).
Short-finned Pilot Whales are hunted by artisanal (traditional) fishermen in the Lesser Antilles where the combined catch was in the hundreds until at least the mid-1970s. They are also hunted in Indonesia and Sri Lanka at unknown catch levels (Reeves et al. 2003).
There are no estimates of Short-finned Pilot Whale population size, either globally or for Australia, so the proportion of the global population in Australian waters is unknown. Currently the species is considered circumglobal, although there may be some stock differences such as those reported for Japan (Kasuya et al. 1988; Miyazaki & Amano 1994). If stock differentiation does exist then it is possible that mortalities of Short-finned Pilot Whales in neighbouring countries and/or international waters may affect the population off Australia, particularly if these whales participate in the large-scale movements that have been reported in other parts of their range (Bernard & Reilly 1999).
Short-finned Pilot Whales are not well surveyed within Australian waters. Their distribution is primarily assumed from incidental sightings, plus beach-cast animals, for all areas. Albeit from limited data, these methods are believed to result in reliable distributional information for the species.
No population estimates are available for Short-finned Pilot Whales in Australian waters, although they are generally considered to be in relatively high abundance (Reeves et al. 2003). It is likely that the total number of mature Short-finned Pilot Whales within Australian waters is more than 10 000 (Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.).
No population trends can be calculated for the Short-finned Pilot Whale due to a paucity of survey data.
Outside Australia, seasonal inshore-offshore movements of Short-finned Pilot Whales occur, apparently in response to abundance and spawning of prey (Olson & Reilly 2002). Similar movements (and potential resultant extreme fluctuations in the population) are likely but currently not apparent from the meager data for Australia (Bannister et al. 1996).
All cetaceans are protected within the Australian Whale Sanctuary under the EPBC Act. The Sanctuary includes all Commonwealth waters from the three nautical mile state waters limit out to the boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zone (i.e. out to 200 nautical miles and further in some places).
Short-finned Pilot Whales prefer deep water and occur mainly at the edge of the continental shelf, and over deep submarine canyons (Carwardine 1995). Davis and colleagues (1998) found that Short-finned Pilot Whales in the Gulf of Mexico preferred water depths between 600 and 1000 m.
In the Australian region, Short-finned Pilot Whales occur in tropical to temperate (1032 °C) oceanic waters, generally occurring at the edge of the continental shelf and over deep submarine canyons, although they may also approach coastal seas (Culik 2003h). Outside Australia, seasonal inshore and offshore movements of known groups occur, apparently in response to abundance and spawning of prey (Bernard & Reilly 1999).
This overview of Short-finned Pilot Whale reproductive data is based on the southern Japanese form (Donovan et al. 1993; Kasuya & Marsh 1984). Age and length at sexual maturity in males is 14.6 years and 4.05.0 m, with larger males maturing earlier. Females reach sexual maturity at around nine years and 2.93.6 m in length. Male Short-finned Pilot Whales reach a maximum age of 46 years, while females may live for 63 years (Bannister et al. 1996; Perrin & Reilly 1984).
Causes of natural mortality are largely unknown, but Short-finned Pilot Whales do mass strand, with the largest number of stranding events occurring in the Hawaiian Archipelago between 1957 and 1998 (Mazzuca et al. 1999). Two-thirds of these events occurred on the leeward sides of the islands, and in areas with similar bottom topography, coastal configuration, and geomagnetic characteristics. Similarly, Short-finned Pilot Whales were one of the most frequently stranded species in waters off Puerto Rico, the United States and British Virgin Islands (Mignucci et al. 1999).
After a 14.9 month gestation, Short-finned Pilot Whale calves are born at a weight and length of approximately 55 kg and 1.4 m, respectively (Donovan et al. 1993; Kasuya & Marsh 1984). Although weaning occurs at approximately two years, female Short-finned Pilot Whales may continue to suckle young for up to 15 additional years, suggesting a complex social structure in which older females may give their own or related calves a "reproductive edge" through prolonged suckling (Jefferson et al. 1993). Females continue breeding until they are between 1734 years old (average 24 years) and produce an average of four to five calves. Mating occurs all year round, resulting in a diffusely seasonal calving period, with peaks in spring and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere (Jefferson et al. 1993).
The mating system is polygynous, with male Short-finned Pilot Whales migrating between schools after weaning (Ross 2006). Breeding schools of Short-finned Pilot Whales are based around groups of related females (matrilineal). No Short-finned Pilot Whale calving areas are known for Australian waters (Bannister et al. 1996; Donovan et al. 1993). There are no known reproductive behaviours that may make Short-finned Pilot Whales vulnerable to a threatening process, although the five year calving interval leads to an extremely low reproductive capacity.
Short-finned Pilot Whales feed mainly on squid, cuttlefish, octopus and some fish. Stomach contents have included cephalopods such as Loligo reynaudi and Lycoteuthis diadema off southern Africa (Ross 1984); Loligo opalescens off California; and Todarodes pacificus, Eucleoteuthis luminosa, Ommastrephes bartrami and the giant octopus, Octopus dofleini, off Japan (Hacker 1992). Associations have been seen with appearance of the squid, Illex illecebrosus coindeti, off western Africa and with feeding tuna off Puerto Rico. Hernandez-Garcia and Martin (1994) found that stomach contents of two Short-finned Pilot Whales from the Canary Islands were made up entirely of cephalopods, including Todarodes sagittatus, Cranchia and juveniles of Megalocranchia.
Although Short-finned Pilot Whales have the typical adaptation of a reduction in teeth seen in other squid-eating cetaceans (Jefferson et al. 1993), they also take fish, as is evidenced by their interactions with pelagic fishing boats. Whether this is natural prey or a learned behaviour is not determined.
The distribution and movements of Short-finned Pilot Whales appear to be regulated by prey availability. In particular, inshore-offshore movements are probably determined by the timing of squid spawning (outside the squid season Short-finned Pilot Whales are usually found offshore) (Culik 2003h).
Baird and colleagues (2003) hypothesised that Short-finned Pilot Whales also feed on vertically migrating prey, with deep dives at dusk and dawn following prey migrations, and near-surface foraging at night. These authors tested this hypothesis by using suction-cup attached time-depth recorders (TDRs) and video camera systems (National Geographic Crittercam). The deepest dives recorded (typically 600800 m for a maximum of 27 minutes) were during the day. Such deep dives were recorded for all five individuals where TDRs remained attached for extended periods. At night, all whales dove regularly to between 300 and 500 m, with the rate of deep (>100 m) dives at night being almost four times greater than during the day. Long bouts of shallow (<100 m) diving occurred only during the day for these Short-finned Pilot Whales. Video footage from the Crittercams during these shallow dive bouts indicated the whales were engaged in social, rest and travel behaviours, but no feeding was documented. Baird and colleagues (2003) suggest that dive depth differences between day and night presumably reflect vertically migrating prey, although the prey of Short-finned Pilot Whales are apparently concentrated at depths of 300500 m during the night.
Short-finned Pilot Whales appear to be generally nomadic, with no known migration patterns. Some short-term north-south movements do occur however, presumably related to prey movements or incursions of warm water. Usually, Short-finned Pilot Whales are found offshore, but the inshore occurrence of spawning squid results in pronounced inshore-offshore movements. A marked seasonality in the distribution of Pilot Whales has been observed in at least three areas: off southern California; in the eastern tropical Pacific; and off the coast of Japan (Culik 2003h). In southern California, the seasonal abundance of Short-finned Pilot Whales appears to be correlated with the seasonal abundance of spawning squid (Olson & Reilly 2002). During years of low squid abundance, fewer pilot whales were sighted near Catalina Island off the coast of California. In both the coastal and pelagic waters of the eastern tropical Pacific, the density of population centres appears to change seasonally in response to major changes in the current structure of the area (Culik 2003h). There also seems to be a seasonal distribution with depth as Short-finned Pilot Whales are found in significantly shallower water during winter (depth 375 m) than summer (800 m) (Bernard & Reilly 1999). In contrast, some populations of Short-finned Pilot Whales are present year-round, such as in Hawaii and the Canary Islands (Carwardine 1995).
There have been no systematic studies of home range or migration of Short-finned Pilot Whale individuals. Opportunistic observations in the southern California Bight have indicated that a pod of 2030 individuals, identified by scars and unusual marks, lived in the area year-round in the 1970s (Shane 1995a, b). Following the strong El Niño event in 198283, subsequent surveys throughout the 1980s turned up few sightings, and documented the absence of all but one pod of pilot whales near Catalina Island. Shipboard surveys along the entire California coast using line-transect methodology were conducted in 1991 and 1993 within 550 km of shore, and showed the apparent return of Short-finned Pilot Whales to the area (Bernard & Reilly 1999).
The Short-finned Pilot Whale has a distinctive globose head and low, wide-based, dorsal fin, placed one third of the way back from the snout tip (Jefferson et al. 1993). Long and Short-finned Pilot Whales (G. melas and G. macrorhynchus) are difficult to distinguish at sea. However, the species differ, as the name suggests, in flipper length, as well as skull shape and number of teeth. On average, the flippers reach 1830% of the body length in Long-finned Pilot Whales, but only 1419% in Short-finned Pilot Whales (Bloch et al. 1993a). The Short-finned Pilot Whale can also be confused with False Killer Whales and, less often with Pygmy Killer Whales and Melon-headed Whales. However, the differences in head shape and dorsal fin shape and position should permit correct identification.
Short-finned Pilot Whales can be difficult to detect due to the propensity for entire groups to rest motionless ('log') at the surface (Carwardine 1995). However, this behaviour does often allow boats to approach closely to confirm identification. Social activities include spy-hopping and tail-slapping, while young animals may occasionally breach (Leatherwood & Reeves 1983). Short-finned Pilot Whale groups are often mixed with Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) (Leatherwood & Reeves 1983).
Cetacean surveys are constrained by several important factors including weather (e.g. sea state and light conditions), area to be covered, aim of the survey (abundance estimate versus ecological studies), the activities of the animals themselves (e.g. travelling, resting, surface versus deep feeding), and the type of craft used for the survey.
Surveys for oceanic cetaceans such as Short-finned Pilot Whales have primarily been boat-based transects. There are almost no dedicated cetacean surveys conducted in continental Australian waters. During non-dedicated surveys, a minimum requirement is to record all cetacean sightings encountered with corresponding GPS position, environmental data (sea conditions and habitat) and behavioural observations. From fishing vessels, all incidentally caught animals should be recorded with corresponding GPS position, plus attempts should be made to obtain basic biological information from dead animals (Peddemors 2006, pers. comm).
Historically, Short-finned Pilot Whales were subjected to localised fisheries in the Caribbean, off Japan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but not in Australian waters (Bannister et al. 1996; Reeves et al. 2003). Current and potential threats to Short-finned Pilot Whales include possible entanglement in drift nets and other nets set, lost or discarded in international waters; competition from expanding commercial fisheries, especially in mid to higher latitudes; and pollution leading to accumulation of toxic substances in body tissues (Bannister et al. 1996; Ross 2006). There are also reports of Short-finned Pilot Whales interacting with fisheries. Their habit of removing bait and catch from longlines is thought to have led to increased mortalities in recent years (McPherson et al. 2002).
Although little is known about reproduction in Short-finned Pilot Whales, it is likely that they have a low reproductive rate, producing one offspring approximately every five years, as per the southern Japanese form (Donovan et al. 1993; Kasuya & Marsh 1984). This means that population recovery is a slow process.
Bannister and colleagues (1996) and Ross (2006) recommended the following actions be taken to better understand the threats to Short-finned Pilot Whales:
- Determine the distribution and monitor abundance of Short-finned Pilot Whales in Australian waters to assess the possible impact of threats, particularly the effect of direct and indirect fishing activities. This should be done via a sighting program to monitor numbers, particularly in subtropical and tropical waters. There should be consideration to pool existing sightings and strandings data to locate possible concentration areas.
- Obtain information on the Short-finned Pilot Whale diet to determine their trophic level and assess any possible impact of the fishing industry on Odontocete food resources.
- Obtain basic biological information (including diet, pollutant levels and tissue samples for genetic analysis) from incidentally-caught and stranded Short-finned Pilot Whale specimens.
Current projects initiated to address these threats include a requirement to report all incidental catches made within the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (Bannister et al. 1996). It has also been recommended that current management efforts include ensuring adequate protection of species and resources in Australian and nearby waters; and that suitable action plans be developed. Disentanglement workshops have also been initiated, and may be particularly relevant for offshore fishers.
The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans (Bannister et al. 1996) and the Review of the Conservation Status of Australia's Smaller Whales and Dolphins (Ross 2006) provide brief biological overviews and management recommendations of this species. In addition, Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales (DEW 2007), and Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching (DEH 2005c) have been published.
No threats data available.
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Baird, R.W., D.J. McSweeney, M.R. Heithaus & G. Marshall (2003). Sub-surface and night-time behaviour of short-finned pilot whales in Hawaii: information from suction-cup attached time-depth recorders and video camera (CritterCAM) systems. Annual Meeting of the European Cetacean Society, Tenerife, Spain.. Annual Meeting of the European Cetacean Society, Tenerife, Spain.
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Department of the Environment and Heritage (2005e). Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/publications/whale-watching-guidelines-2005.html.
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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.
Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Globicephala macrorhynchus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 13 Mar 2014 00:59:24 +1100.