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The Southern Ocean Research Partnership

The IWC Southern Ocean Research Partnership (IWC-SORP) was established in 2009 as an integrated, collaborative consortium for cetacean research, which aims to maximise conservation-orientated outcomes for Southern Ocean cetaceans through an understanding of the post-exploitation status, health, dynamics and environmental linkages of their populations, and the threats they face. 

IWC-SORP currently focuses on the large whale species managed by the IWC: Antarctic blue whale, humpback whale, fin whale, Antarctic minke whale and southern right whale. Killer whales are also considered as an important component of the Southern Ocean ecosystem. The regional focus of IWC-SORP is the Southern Ocean but relevant research efforts also include migratory corridors and breeding grounds.

There are seven on-going IWC-SORP research themes:

  1. The Antarctic Blue Whale Project (ABWP): towards an improved circumpolar abundance estimate;
  2. Distribution, relative abundance, migration patterns and foraging ecology of three ecotypes of killer whales in the Southern Ocean;
  3. Foraging ecology and predator­-prey interactions between baleen whales and krill: a multi­-scale comparative study across Antarctic regions;
  4. Acoustic trends in abundance, distribution, and seasonal presence of Antarctic blue whales and fin whales in the Southern Ocean;
  5. What is the distribution and extent of mixing of Southern Hemisphere humpback whale populations around Antarctica?
  6. The right sentinel for climate change: linking foraging ground variability to population recovery in the southern right whale.
  7. Recovery status and ecology of Southern Hemisphere fin whales.

Scientists participating in IWC-SORP are developing and applying novel, powerful, conservation-oriented research methods including acoustic techniques, tagging devices, photography and satellite tracking methods, tissue sampling and sophisticated genetic techniques, as well as important ecological theory and analyses.

The Partnership currently includes 13 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and the United States of America.
IWC-SORP warmly welcomes new partners to formally commit to participation in this exciting initiative.

Detailed information is available from:

Whale photo-identification guide

Reference placards describing photo-identification features for large whales have been developed for distribution to naturalists and citizen scientists in the South Georgia/las islas Georgias del Sur and Antarctic Peninsula region.  Sightings will be incorporated into a global, web-based photo-identification platform.  Photographers will be informed of matches made from contributed images, and images will be forwarded on to relevant regional catalogue curators.

Click here for a print-version of the Whale Photo-Identification Guide and here for an electronic version.

Click here to see how the photographs submitted are processed and used by scientists.

The Whale Photo-Identification Guide was developed by Taylor JKD, Olson PA, Fitzpatrick J, Minton G and Jackson JA, with funding provided by IWC-SORP.