Bismarck Sea IMMA
22 533 km2
Qualifying Species and Criteria
Killer whale – Orcinus orca
Criterion C (1, 2)
Sperm whale – Physeter macrocephalus
Marine Mammal Diversity
Criterion D (2)
Stenella longirostris, Tursiops truncatus, Tursiops aduncus, Stenella attenuata, Grampus griseus, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Ziphius cavirostris
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The Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea lies within the Indo-Pacific coral triangle, which is a global marine biodiversity hotspot. Consistent sightings of killer whales suggest that they are resident in Papua New Guinea, and the presence of calves and of feeding activity, have been recorded in the south of the Bismarck Sea IMMA, especially in Kimbe Bay. Large aggregations of spinner dolphins containing relatively high numbers of calves, and considerable numbers of sperm whales also occur in the Bismarck Sea. The significant species diversity of the area is underscored by the presence of six other cetacean species that have also been recorded.
Description of Qualifying Criteria
Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability
Sperm whales are listed as Vulnerable (A1d) on the IUCN Red List. In the 2001 Odyssey Cruise, Sperm whales were consistently reported in the Bismarck Sea in considerable numbers (Wise et al. 2011; Alexander et al. 2016; C.S. Baker, pers. comm). Sperm whales were subsequently detected acoustically during surveys in 2010, and in close visual proximity during surveys in 2013.
Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities
Sub-criterion C1: Reproductive Areas
Orcinus orca – The evidence compiled by Visser and Bonocorso (2003) suggest that Killer whales may be resident in Papua New Guinea waters. Surveys in Kimbe Bay, as well as a review of documented records, indicated the presence of killer whales for 10 months of the year. Killer whale calves were recorded during 13 sightings in March-May and July-Oct, with a peak in April (n = 5) (Visser & Bonaccorso 2003; Visser 2007, Visser unpubl. data). Nine of the 13 sightings with calves were recorded in the Kimbe Bay area (Visser & Bonaccorso 2003, Visser unpubl. data). The work of Visser is now slightly dated as surveys were conducted in 2002 and 2003, however, there are continued observations of this species in the Bismarck Sea (S. Kaluwin, pers. comm) which strongly suggest the continued importance of this area to killer whales.
Sub-criterion C2: Feeding Areas
Orcinus orca –Killer whales in the Bismarck Sea have been observed feeding on four species of elasmobranchs (scalloped-hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini; grey reef shark, Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos; manta ray, Manta birostris; and blue-spotted ray, Dasyatis kuhlii) and four species of fin-fish (yellow-fin tuna, Thunnus albacares; big-eye tuna, Thunnus obesus; IndoPacific sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus; and sunfish, Mola mola) (Visser 2007). This information is now 15 years old, nevertheless, the relative spread and number of well-documented Orca sightings as well as additional records from across Papua New Guinea provide strong support for the ongoing presence of feeding killer whales in this area.
Criterion D: Special Attributes
Sub-criterion D2: Diversity
Other cetacean species confirmed for the Bismarck Sea include: common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus), pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), and Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris). There have also been records of: pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps), blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), Blainville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), Fraser’s dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei), melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra), and false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) – (Miller, 2009).
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