Royal Society Publishing

Discovery of a blue whale feeding and nursing ground in southern Chile

Rodrigo Hucke-Gaete , Layla P. Osman , Carlos A. Moreno , Ken P. Findlay , Don K. Ljungblad

Abstract

After the extensive exploitation that reduced the Southern Hemisphere blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) populations to less than 3% of its original numbers, studies on its recovery have been compounded by the inaccessibility of most populations and the extensive migrations between low and high latitudes, thus ensuring that knowledge about blue whale ecology and status remains limited. We report the recent discovery of, arguably, the most important blue whale feeding and nursing ground known to date in the Southern Hemisphere, which is located near the fjords off southern Chile. Through aerial and marine surveys (n=7) 47 groups, comprising 153 blue whales including at least 11 mother–calf pairs, were sighted during the austral summer and early autumn of 2003. The implications of this discovery on the biological understanding and conservation of this endangered species are discussed.