A wildlife scientist from Macquarie University is urging the public to say something on social media if they see pygmy blue whales off the coast of Maroubra.
The expert, Vanessa Pirotta, has launched a new study into the six verified sightings of the elusive marine animal in the last 18 years after drones tracked pygmy blue whales in Maroubra two times in 2020. These have been rare opportunities for a species classified as a poorly studied, “data deficient” animal.
Ms Pirotta said that the pygmy blue whales are quite a challenge to study because they are not as accessible compared to dolphins despite being the biggest animal in the world. Whilst scientists have devised many techniques to learn about these whales, the work, so far, has been limited and focused on small areas.
- Two rare sightings of pygmy blue whales happened in Maroubra in 2020 within two months.
- This prompted scientist Vanessa Pirotta to conduct a new study as she urged the public to sound off if they see the whales on Maroubra’s coast.
- Pygmy blue whales are the largest animals in the world but they are so elusive that scientists have a hard time gathering data.
“We don’t know much about pygmy blue whale presence in other parts of Australian waters, such as the east coast,” the scientist said. “The more information we know, the better we’re placed to assess their conservation needs. But focusing our efforts on species we know nothing about may require a conservative approach until we learn more.”
Pygmy blue whales are protected by the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act as a threatened species, and internationally by the International Whaling Commission and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species. Ms Pirotta said they need more data to uphold these protections and safeguard the animals from threats, such as overfishing, ship collisions, climate change, and human activities in the water.
The scientist said that they still do not know the type of pygmy blue whales that were spotted in 2020.
“So, the next time you are by the sea, keep a look out and tell a scientist via social media if you see something interesting,” Ms Pirotta urged. “You just never know when the world’s biggest, or shiest, animal may turn up out of the blue.”