5 Dec 2006

NZ professor says evidence suggests whale numbers in Pacific remain fragile

12:49 pm on 5 December 2006

A New Zealand based ecology professor who attended a scientific meeting in New Caledonia to assess the status of humpback whales in the region says evidence suggests that whale numbers in the Pacific remain fragile.

Scott Baker, a professor of molecular ecology from the University of Auckland, says scientists and researchers have been comparing photos of humpback whales taken in different world regions over a period of time.

He says although humpback numbers in Australian waters have increased, it's not the same in Pacific waters.

He says scientists are trying to find out why, but there is concern that Japan's move to resume commercial whaling next year will affect numbers even further.

"But the ones in the Pacific have not increased so markedly and in the Pacific, say New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands, French Polynesia - The members of the consortium have collected these photo identification for more than 7 to 8 years, and some photos in Tonga were as early as 1991, and while numbers are growing slowly, but still numbers are very low."

Scott Baker says scientists from around the Pacific gathered in New Caledonia last week to determine the status of humpback whales and their migration patterns.