Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research Programme
SOWER: THE 2009/10 CRUISE
18/02/2010 - see Press Release
SOWER cruises have been conducted annually for over 30 years and have provided extensive information on a variety of cetaceans. Commencing in 1978/79 as part of its International Decade of Cetacean Research (IDCR), this programme has been organised annually under the auspices of the IWC. In the intervening 32 years the cruise programme has involved between 1 and 4 ships each year, for a total of 4,112 vessel-days (or 11¼ vessel-years) and has covered an estimated 216,000 n.miles in the area south of 60°S. In the process, the Antarctic continent has been circumnavigated 3 times and 43,000 sightings of cetaceans made, including notably 25,333 of minke whales and 400 of blue whales. Estimates of abundance have been obtained not only for the Antarctic minke whale, the prime objective of the programme, but also for almost every other cetacean occurring in higher latitudes, including several smaller species that had never been assessed previously.
The first circumpolar survey took place when commercial whaling was still in progress, and 2,748 minke whales were tagged with Discovery marks and 95 recovered, including one 24 years later: this continues to be the only source of data on the summer movements of Antarctic minke whales. From the second circumpolar series onwards, some 1,500 biopsies have been collected, over 3,000 whales photographed for individual identification and many thousands of hours of acoustic recordings made. The programme has also stimulated the development of different approaches to modelling sighting data. Without the generous provision of vessels by the Government of Japan (and initially by the Soviet Union) and the financial and other support of the IWC, the success of this programme would never have been possible. It has been truly international in nature, with over 200 scientists from 15 member nations participating, and cooperative cruises in lower latitudes have been conducted off Australia, Brazil, Chile, Madagascar, Peru and South Africa. All the data collected on these cruises have been submitted to the IWC Secretariat and made available through its DESS data base to interested scientists from any member nation.
Although the programme may now be coming to an end, the IWC Scientific Committee will doubtless continue to mine the wealth of information it has accumulated on southern cetaceans for many years to come.
A gallery of images from previous cruises can be viewed HERE
The most recent cruise took place from December 2008 to February 2009. Detailed information may be found below:
|Planning meeting report||2008-2009 Planning Report.pdf|
|Guide for researchers||Guide for Researchers 2008-09.pdf|
|Datasheets||Sightings data sheet2008-2009.pdf|
|2008/09 IWC-SOWER Cruise Report||2008-2009 Cruise Report.pdf|
Some reports from previous cruises can be found below and this list will be expanded shortly.