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IWC Workshop - Southern Right Whale Die-Off and Kelp Gull Management

In Argentina next month, an IWC workshop will bring together marine biologists, veterinarians and specialists in stress, disease, krill depletion and gull management.  The aim of the event is to understand the cause or causes of the large number of Southern Right whale deaths at Peninsula Valdes, Chubut, each year.

For many years, harassment by kelp gulls has been blamed for the seasonal die-off which effects mainly calves.  The gulls feed on the whale’s skin and blubber.  Once the whale’s skin is penetrated, the birds return repeatedly, creating wounds up to 4 inches deep and 5 feet long.  77% percent of whales now carry these lesions and over 670 whales have died in the region since 2003, but evidence now suggests a range of other factors could be involved. 

The workshop will take place in Puerto Madryn from 5-6 August.  The expert group will assess each potential cause, aiming to develop a two year work plan to address the problem.  They will also develop a strategy to minimise kelp gull harassment which must be considered an aggravating factor, whether or it is directly responsible for the deaths.