Whales and dolphins under threat

Published 25 September 2008

A free public talk on the threats facing the world’s whales and dolphins will be held in Byron Bay on Thursday, October 2.

One of Australia’s leading marine researchers, Associate Professor Peter Harrison, will present the free lecture as part of the Science Conversation Series, hosted by Southern Cross University’s School of Environmental Science and Management.

Professor Harrison, the director of the SCU Whale Research Centre, said there were 14 species of whales and dolphins now listed as threatened, with one species likely to be extinct.

“There are 86 recognised species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) on the planet and they have major roles in marine and aquatic ecosystems. They also have immense cultural and socio-economic values,” Professor Harrison said.

“Many of the great whales have not recovered from unregulated commercial whaling, and the killing of more than two million whales last century in the Southern Ocean has probably destabilised marine food webs.”

He said there were many threats facing cetaceans such as ongoing whaling, bycatch in nets and other fishing gear, habitat loss, population fragmentation, noise disturbance and shipping strikes, diseases, pollution and global climate change.

“These issues and their impacts on the global status of cetaceans are being examined by the Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre through a range of research projects – many of which are being done in collaboration with international research and conservation groups,” Professor Harrison said.

The Centre conducts the annual Cape Byron Whale Research Project which involves a survey of humpback whales as they head north on their annual migration, and research on the southern migration of humpbacks is currently under way at Cape Byron.

The free talk will be held at the SCU Room at the Byron Community and Cultural Centre on Thursday, October 2, from 6.30pm to 7.30pm. All visitors to Byron Bay and members of the community are invited to attend. RSVP to Peter Mooney on 66858470 or email peter.mooney@scu.edu.au

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.