Blue whale populations were devastated in the last century by commercial whaling, which reduced blue whales from a quarter of a million to just a few hundred animals. Australian waters are home to both the Antarctic blue whale and a smaller sub- species, the pygmy blue whale. Blue whale numbers have increased a little since whaling ended but their recovery has been slow and numbers still remain in the few thousands. This analysis looks at the scale of seismic testing by the offshore oil and gas industry in important blue whale habitat in Australia.
Blue whales in Australian waters
Blue whales come to Australian waters to feed in just a few unique locations. There are three main areas: the Perth Canyon (March – May), the Bonney Upwelling off Victoria and South Australia (November – April) and the waters off Kangaroo Island extending into the eastern Great Australian Bight (November – May).
Feeding is also thought to take place elsewhere off the WA coast from Cape Naturaliste northwards and also off Ningaloo Reef as pygmy blue whales migrate northwards (March – August) from Australia to Indonesian waters where they go to give birth to and nurse their young, before returning south (October – December) to feeding grounds in Australian waters.
Blue whales are listed as endangered under Australian federal legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).