Geographe Bay to Eucla Shelf and Coastal Waters IMMA

Size in Square Kilometres

12,3161 km2

Qualifying Species and Criteria

Southern right whales – Eubalaena australis

Criterion B (ii); C (i, iii)

Humpback whales – Megaptera novaeangliae

Criterion B (ii); C (iii)

Pygmy blue whales – Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda

Criterion A; B (ii); C (iii)

Australian sea lions – Neophoca cinerea

Criterion A; C (i)

New Zealand fur seals – Arctocephalus forsteri

Criterion C (i, ii)

Marine Mammal Diversity 

Tursiops aduncus, Delphinus delphis, Balaenoptera musculus, Globicephala melas, Balaenoptera bonaerensis, Pseudorca crassidens, Orcinus orca, Kogia breviceps, Physeter macrocephalus, Caperea marginata, Tasmacetus shepherdi, Mesoplodon grayi, Ziphius cavirostris

Summary

The area delineated includes overlapping habitats in which: resident endangered Australian sea lions (Goldsworthy et al. 2009) and resident New Zealand fur seals (Campbell et al. 2014) breed, haul-out, and forage, southern right whales breed and nurse their young (DSEWPaC 2012), and endangered blue whales and humpback whales (hilderhouse et al. 2008) to migrate (McCauley & Jenner 2010; Salgado Kent et al. 2014). The area includes waters from the coast out to the edge of the continental shelf at locations where Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seal colonies occur, in order to include their foraging areas or Australian sea lions, and extends out to 3 nm from the coast for southern right whales in all other areas. Coincidentally, part of the migratory corridor for pygmy blue and humpback whales occurs within the IMMA between the coast and continental shelf. The most western parts (Geographe Bay, the Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin region and Naturaliste Plateau) are particularly important for migrating whales of both species, including mothers nursing calves following the coast on their way south (Salgado Kent et al. 2014). A wide range of other whale species are known to occur in the region and include: dwarf minke whale, fin whale, pygmy right whale, sperm, pygmy sperm, and dwarf sperm whales, and strap-toothed, Gray’s and Cuvier’s beaked whales (Groom & Coughran, 2012; Groom, Coughran & Raudino 2014). These other species may transit the area and forage or calve in it.

Description of Qualifying Criteria

Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability

Blue whales are listed as Endangered globally (IUCN 2020) and in Western Australia (WA) (Biodiversity Conservation Act, 2016). The total eastern Indian Ocean blue whale population last estimated in 2010 was small at 662-1559 (McCauley & Jenner 2010) and is presumably still recovering from commercial whaling. Australian sea lions are Globally listed as Endangered (IUCN 2020) and Vulnerable within WA (Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016). The species is endemic to Australia, occurring only in WA and South Australia. Some breeding island sub-populations are in decline, and none are increasing (Friedman and Campbell 2014).

Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance

Sub-criterion Bii: Aggregations 

Sheltered, coastal waters of the area, stretching from Geographe Bay (most westerly area) to Israelite Bay (most easterly area) contain important calving grounds for southern right whales; a species having high calving ground site fidelity with mothers returning to calve at the same locations. Large established aggregation areas are recognized (according to the Commonwealth criteria) at Doubtful Island and Israelite Bays, while a small established area is recognized at Yokinup Bay (DSEWPaC 2012). Twilight Cove, Hassel Beach, Cheyne, Wray, Dillon and Bremer Bays are recognized as emerging coastal aggregation areas. While not yet recognised in Commonwealth aggregation area criteria, Point Charles Bay (from Point Anne to Point Charles), Cheynes Beach King George Sound, and Geographe Bay are regularly used by southern right whales for calving and by resting mothers nursing young calves (Bannister 2001). The broad coastal area within this IMMA is important as part of the network of critical calving grounds for the population. In particular, the zone from the coast up to ~2-3 km from shore along the entire southern coast of Australia is important for coastal movement corridors for southern right whales. Movement of calving and non-calving adults has been recorded across broad distances both within and across seasons (Pirzl et al. 2009).

The total eastern Indian Ocean blue whale population was estimated at 662-1559 in 2010 (McCauley & Jenner, 2010). Large numbers of pygmy (and probably some Antarctic) blue whales with calves use Geographe Bay and the Naturaliste Plateau as a narrow transit corridor (Recalde-Salas 2014; Salgado Kent et al. 2012; Salgado Kent et al. 2014). Because of this narrowing of the corridor and the relatively large number of whales using it, the area is judged as one where ‘aggregation’ occurs. Southbound blue whales move slowly into the bay following the shallow bathymetry, often travelling within 100 m of the shore. In recent years shore-based day-time counts have recorded up to ~250 blue whales (Burton, unpublished data). Peak numbers are observed October-December. Flinders Bay and the Naturaliste Plateau and westward are also used by northward migrating blue whales between ~March-May (Gavrilov et al. 2012). During migration, humpbacks occur in higher densities in Geographe Bay and offshore, and within sheltered areas on the southwest coast such as Flinders Bay and King George Sound. On their southward migration, humpbacks often rest and nurse their calves and socialize in large, competitive groups. Peak numbers are observed September-November, with ~4700 humpback whales counted migrating through Geographe Bay in a season during day-time shore-based counts (Burton, unpublished data). Because of this narrowing of the corridor, namely for southbound mothers and calves, ‘the area is judged as one where ‘aggregation’ occurs. Flinders Bay and bays on the southwest coast are used by northward migrating humpback whales between ~June-August.

Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities

Sub-criterion Ci: Reproductive Areas

Australian sea lions are endemic to Australia, occurring only in Western Australia and South Australia. It is unique in having large numbers of small breeding colonies, low reproductive rates, an unusually long and asynchronous breeding cycle (17-18 months), high site fidelity, and poor dispersal (Campbell et al. 2008 Lowther et al. 2012). This IMMA includes the majority of breeding islands in Western Australia, representing around 30% of the breeding sites (Goldsworthy et al.  2014; Shaughnessy et al. 2005). The high degree of site fidelity exhibited by females means that each breeding colony has become somewhat genetically isolated, making this species highly vulnerable to local extinction of breeding colonies (Campbell et al. 2008). New Zealand fur seal breed on offshore islands between southern Western Australia and New Zealand and some Subantarctic islands (Shaughnessy 1999). During recent decades, New Zealand fur seals have been experiencing a healthy recovery from sealing. In Australia, while there is genetic exchange between the populations in WA and the east coast, colonies are separated by the Great Australian Bight (>750 km; Berry et al. 2012). In Western Australia, all 20 of the known breeding colonies are located within the IMMA (Campbell et al. 2014), and were estimated to make up 14% of the population size in Australia during the 2010 – 2014 time period (Shaughnessy et al. 2015). Within the sheltered, coastal waters of the area, stretching from Geographe Bay (most westerly area) to Israelite Bay (most easterly area) important calving grounds are located for southern right whales; a species having high calving ground site fidelity with mothers returning to calve at the same locations (Bannister 2001).

Sub-criterion Cii: Feeding Areas

In Western Australia, all 20 of the known breeding colonies (Campbell et al. 2014) estimated to make up 14% of the population size in Australia during 2010 – 2014 (Shaughnessy et al. 2015) are within the IMMA. The area includes waters from the coast out to the edge of the continental shelf occupied by fur seals during foraging trips from their haul-out and breeding colonies, acting as central place foragers (Kirkwood and Goldsworthy 2013). While some New Zealand fur seals likely forage further offshore than other animals in the population, the exact extent of such foraging movements in the region is presently unknown.

Sub-criterion Ciii: Migration Routes

Pygmy blue whales use offshore and coastal waters of the south coast as part of a transit corridor during migration westward from the Bonney Upwelling foraging area to the Perth Canyon foraging area between February to June. More specifically, satellite tracking data from pygmy blue whales tagged off Western Australia (Double et al. 2014; Owen et al. 2016) and in the Bonney Upwelling (Moller and Attard, 2015) off South Australia have identified the area from near King Island in southeast Australia up to the Banda and Molucca Seas as the migratory pathway of pygmy blue whales. The movement of Southern right whales between coastal aggregation areas within and across seasons, shows that the corridor between the aggregation areas is important connective habitat.  Results support the view that greater abundance promotes increased linkage via connective corridors between aggregation areas (Charlton et al. 2019b). Within and between season movements of SRWs on the southern Australian coastline were documented further east by Burnell (2001). While studies on SRWs in the southwest of Australia are limited, within year movements of the same sub-population on the south coast of Australia averaged 730 km, over 34 days. The maximum reported within season movement of an individual SRWs across coastal southern Australia is 1,490 km (Burnell 2001). During migration, humpback whales occur in high densities in Geographe Bay and offshore, and within sheltered areas on the southwest coast such as Flinders Bay and King George Sound. Peak numbers are observed September-November, with ~4700 humpback whales counted migrating south through Geographe Bay in a season during day-time shore-based counts (Burton, unpublished data). This area is considered the last sheltered area they rest in during their migration from low latitude breeding grounds to high latitude feeding grounds (Salgado Kent et al. 2014). Flinders Bay, King George Sound, and coastal areas along the southwest coast are used by northward migrating humpback whales between ~June-August. Flinders and King George Sound are areas of whale watching operations with these and southern right whales as focal species. For example, encounters by one tour vessel in King George Sound in 2012 included a total of 419 whales in 90 groups, 11 of which had calves in them. Of the groups, 84 were humpback whales, 9 of which had calves in them. Six were southern right whales, two of which had calves in them.

Supporting Information

Bannister, J.L. 2001. Status of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) off Australia. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, Special Issue 2: 103–110.

Bannister J.L. 2010 Southern right whale aerial survey, southern Australian coast, August 2010 Final Report to The Australian Marine Mammal Centre.

Bannister, J. 2016. 2015 Aerial survey data of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) off southern Australia, Ver. 2, Australian Antarctic Data Centre [online]. Available at: DOI 10.4225/15/57EC70C5D9507. (Accessed: 25 January 2020)

Burton, C., Salgado Kent, C., Wiese, I. and Ranford, B. 2019. ‘First evidence supporting the classification of Geographe Bay as a southern right whale aggregation area’, paper delivered at the Australian Marine Science Association Conference, Fremantle, WA, 7-11 July 2019.

Campbell, R.A., Gales, N.J., Lento, G.M. and Baker, C.S. 2008. Islands in the sea: extreme female natal site fidelity in the Australian sea lion, Neophoca cinerea. Biology Letters, 4: 139-142.

Campbell, R., Holley, D., Collins, P. and Armstrong, S. 2014. Changes in the abundance and distribution of the New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) in Western Australia: are they approaching carrying capacity? Australian Journal of Zoology, 62(4): 261-267 [online]. Available at: DOI https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO14016. (Accessed: 25 January 2020)

Charlton, C., Ward, R., McCauley, R.D., Brownell Jr., R.L., Salgado Kent, C. and Burnell, S. 2019a. Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis), seasonal abundance and distribution at Head of Bight, South Australia. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 29: 576–588.

Charlton, C., Ward, R., McCauley, R.D., Brownell Jr., R.L., Guggenheimer, S., Salgado Kent, C. and Bannister, J.L. 2019b. Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) return to a former wintering calving ground: Fowlers Bay South Australia. Marine Mammal Science, 35(4): 1438-1462.

Childerhouse, S., Jackson, J., Baker, C.S., Gales, N., Clapham, P.J. & Brownell Jr., R.L. 2008. Megaptera novaeangliae (Oceania subpopulation). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T132832A3463914. Available at URL https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T132832A3463914.en. (Accessed: 30 June 2020).

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 2012. Conservation Management Plan for the Southern Right Whale. A Recovery Plan under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 19992011–2021. Australian Government. 72 pp. [online]. Available at URL https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/4b8c7f35-e132-401c-85be-6a34c61471dc/files/e-australis-2011-2021.pdf. (Accessed: 25 January 2020)

Double, M.C., Andrews-Goff, V., Jenner, K.C.S., Jenner, M.-N., Laverick, S.M., Branch, T.A. and Gales, N.J. 2014. Migratory Movements of Pygmy Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) between Australia and Indonesia as Revealed by Satellite Telemetry. PLOS ONE, 9: e93578.

Elsdon, B. 2017. ‘Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) movement and site fidelity at two aggregation areas in south-western Australia’. Honours Thesis. Perth: Curtin University.

Friedman K. and Campbell R. 2014. Developing and implementing standardised monitoring protocols for ASL across its range in Western Australia. Australian Marine Mammal Centre Grants Program, Final Report. Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia.

Gavrilov A.N., McCauley R.D. and Gedamke J. 2012. Steady inter and intra-annual decrease in the vocalization frequency of Antarctic blue whales. 442 Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 131: 4476–80.

Goldsworthy, S., McKenzie, J., Shaughnessy, P., McIntosh, R., Page, B. and Campbell, R. 2009a. Update of the Report: Understanding the Impediments to the Growth of Australian Sea Lion Populations. Report to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. SARDI Publication Number F2008/00847-1. SARDI Research Report series No. 356. 175pp. Available at: URL https://www.pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/231795/No_356_Update_to_the_report_ASL_impediments_to_recovery.pdf. (Accessed: 25 January 2020)

Goldsworthy, S., Ahonen, H., Bailleul, F. and Lowther, A. 2014. Determining spatial distribution of foraging effort by Australian sea lions in southern Western Australia: assisting in spatial and temporal management of commercial fisheries. Report number: SARDI Publication No. F2014/000378-1.

SARDI Research Report Series No. 784, Affiliation: SARDI Aquatic Sciences [online]. Available at URL https://www.pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/232367/Sea_Lion_Tracking_Report_-_FINAL.pdf. (Accessed: 25 January 2020)

Goldsworthy, S., Ahonen, H., Bailleul, F. and Lowther, A. 2014. Determining spatial distribution of foraging effort by Australian sea lions in southern Western Australia: assisting in spatial and temporal management of commercial fisheries. Report to the Australian Marine Mammal Centre. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2014/000378-1. SARDI Research Report Series No. 784. 21 pp.

Groom, C.J. and Coughran, D.K. 2012. Three decades of cetacean strandings in Western Australia. The Royal Society of Western Australia, 95:63-76.

Groom, C.J., Coughran, D.K. and Smith, H.C. 2014. Records of beaked whales (family Ziphiidae) in Western Australian waters. Marine Biodiversity Records 7, e50.

Department of Environment and Conservation. 2013. Ngari Capes Marine Park management plan 2013–2023, Management plan number 74. Department of Environment and Conservation, Perth.

Kirkwood, R. and Goldsworthy, S.D. 2013. Collingwood, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.

Lowther, A. D., Harcourt, R. G., Goldsworthy, S. D. and Stow, A. (2012). Population structure of adult female Australian sea lions is driven by fine-scale foraging site fidelity. Animal Behaviour, 83: 691–701.

McCauley, R.D. and Jenner, C.K. 2010. “Migratory patterns and estimated population size of pygmy blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) traversing the Western Australian coast based on passive acoustics,” in Proceedings of the 62nd IWC Annual Meeting, Agadir, Morocco (June 21–25).

Moller, L. and Attard, C. 2015. Satellite tagging of blue whales in southern Australian waters: examining movements and occupancy patterns to inform management decision-making. Australian Marine Mammal Centre Final Report.

Owen, K., Jenner, C.S., Jenner, M.-N. and Andrews, R.D. 2016. A week in the life of a pygmy blue whale: migratory dive depth overlaps with large vessel drafts. Animal Biotelemetry, 4: 17.

Pirzl, R., Patenaude, N.J., Burnell, S. and Bannister, J. 2009. Movements of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) between Australian and subantarctic New Zealand populations. Marine Mammal Science, 25: 455-461.

Salgado Kent, C.P., Gavrilov, A.N., Recalde-Salas, A., Burton, C.L.K., McCauley and R.D., Marley, S. 2012 Passive acoustic monitoring of baleen whales in Geographe Bay, Western Australia. Australian Acoustical Society Conference 2012, Acoustics 2012: Acoustics, Development, and the Environment.

Salgado Kent, C., Bouchet, P., Wellard, R., Parnum, I., Fouda, L., & Erbe, C. 2020. Cetacean hotspots at steep canyon edges of the Bremer Sub-Basin, south-western Australia: First insights from multiple platforms. Australian Mammalogy. Available at: DOI https://doi.org/10.1071/AM19058. (Accessed: 20 July 2020)

Shaughnessy P.D., Dennis T.E., Seager P.G. 2005. Status of Australian sea lions, Neophoca cinerea, and New Zealand fur seals, Arctocephalus forsteri, on Eyre Peninsula and the far west coast of South Australia. Wildlife Research 32, 85-101.

Shaughnessy, P.D., Goldsworthy, S.D. and Mackay, A.I. 2015. The long-nosed fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) in South Australia in 2013-14: abundance, status and trends. Australian Journal of Zoology, 63: 101–110.

Smith J., Jones D., Travouillon K., Kelly N., Double M. and Bannister, J.L. 2019. Monitoring Population Dynamics of ‘Western’ Right Whales off Southern Australia 2018-2021 – Final Report on activities for 2018. Report to the National Environmental Science Program, Marine Biodiversity Hub. Western Australian Museum (lead organisation).

Tulloch, V.J.D., Plagányi, É.E., Matear, R., Brown, C.J., Richardson, A.J. 2018. Ecosystem modelling to quantify the impact of historical whaling on Southern Hemisphere baleen whales. Fish and Fisheries, 19: 117– 137.

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