Posted by: The ocean update | December 12, 2015

Research underway to find out why Kaikoura whale numbers are falling (New Zealand)

December 12th, 2015. A three-year study into what whales have been feeding on, in the Deep Canyon off the Kaikoura Coast, is under way to find out why numbers there have declined.

Two Otago University researchers are doing this by setting out to find skin flakes the whale leaves behind on the surface.

Researcher Marta Guerra says by analysing the chemistry of a piece of tissue, she can track down what a whale has been eating; even though a whale can put away 1.5 tonnes of food a day.

It’s not known what the whales have been eating in the massive Kaikoura Canyon, which goes to depths of 1.3 kilometres.

“We don’t understand the whole food web and what keeps these whales coming back to Kaikoura… and what sustains the food web that they depend on here,” says Ms Guerra.

It’s a three-year project.

But, the two researchers will soon be trading in their life-jackets for lab coats, so testing can get underway.

The team has only 10 weeks to conduct their research at sea.

This means they have to venture out on the sea, irrespective of the conditions.

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