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17 July 2009
An endangered pygmy blue whale has shown that we still have much to learn about the world's cetaceans and reinforced the importance of Australia's non-lethal whale research.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Indonesian Fisheries Minister Freddy Numberi today announced that a pygmy blue whale, tagged with a satellite tracker off Perth, has travelled as far north as the Banda Sea, in Indonesia.
"Not only is this the first successful long term tagging of this species in Australia, this is also the first confirmation of direct links between pygmy blue whales off Southern Australia and Indonesian waters," Minister Garrett said.
Researchers from the Australian Marine Mammal Centre tagged the young male pygmy blue whale in the Perth Canyon, a seasonal feeding area for pygmy blue whales. Pygmy blue whales are a subspecies of the blue whale, the largest animal to ever live on earth.
"Since April, this whale has travelled along the west coast of Australia, into Indonesian waters and is currently in the Banda Sea, just south of the equator," Mr Garrett said.
"It is truly fascinating to see the details of the whale's route to the warmer northern waters. Much of the migration is at a steady pace up our west coast, in contrast to areas where it slows and meanders. This whale spent about a week just outside the Indonesian government's new Savu Sea National Marine Park, it then swam directly through the marine park," he said.
"Marine parks can play an important role in marine mammal conservation and I congratulate the Indonesian Government for taking concerted action in this important area.
"The very nature of oceans and marine species means actions taken by one country, or in this case two neighbouring countries, can greatly benefit the wider regional and global community," Minister Garrett said.
The new Savu Sea National Marine Park is located in the Lesser Sundas of East Nusa Tenggara in eastern Indonesia and is considered a likely important highway for migrating oceanic species including whales, small cetaceans and turtles.
"I am encouraged that Australia and Indonesia's collaboration, including our involvement in the new Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI), will lead to better protection of our shared vulnerable species," Minister Garrett said.
Australia launched a phased, multi-year commitment in support of the CTI in May, including an immediate contribution of $2 million in direct support.
"This occurrence highlights the benefits of non-lethal whale research techniques," Minister Garrett said.
Last month the International Whaling Commission endorsed a five-year non-lethal whale research proposal for the Australian-led Southern Ocean Research Partnership.
You can see the migratory path of the whale plus other images of him at the pygmy blue whale media centre www.environment.gov.au/pygmybluewhale-mediacentre