Eubalaena australis (Chile-Peru subpopulation) 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Balaenidae

Scientific Name: Eubalaena australis (Chile-Peru subpopulation)
Parent Species:
Common Name(s):
English Southern Right Whale Chile-Peru Subpopulation
Spanish Ballena franca austral
Taxonomic Notes: This is a subpopulation of the Southern Right Whale, Eubalaena australis (Desmoulins, 1822).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2018
Date Assessed: 2017-12-21
Assessor(s): Cooke, J.G.
Reviewer(s): Brownell Jr., R.L. & Reeves, R.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Lowry, L.
Very little is known about the Chile-Peru subpopulation of Southern Right Whales except that it was once fairly numerous off Chile. Although there is no estimate of abundance for Right Whales in the waters off Chile and Peru, the paucity of sightings over the past 40 years makes it very probable that the number of mature animals in the population is less than 50, which meets IUCN Red List criterion D for Critically Endangered.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Southern Right Whales have a circumpolar distribution in the Southern Hemisphere, but various breeding components of this species are concentrated near coastlines in the northern part of the range. During the austral winter and spring, the whales belonging to this subpopulation are known to occur from southern Peru (Santillan et al. 2004) to central Chile (Vernazzani et al. 2014). The northernmost sighting in the eastern South Pacific is from 15°S in Bahía San Fernando, Peru in 2003 and the southernmost at 47°S in Golfo de Peña, Chile in 1976. Mother-calf pairs have been sighted from 15°S to 42°S. Unlike other Southern Right Whale subpopulations, no localized breeding or nursery ground has yet been identified. All confirmed sightings have been in coastal waters, but it is unclear whether this reflects an exclusively coastal distribution or a relative lack of offshore sighting opportunities. The whales in this subpopulation are assumed to be demographically isolated and there has been no observable increase in numbers over the past four decades. Right Whales sighted in the Magellan Strait and Beagle Channel are believed to be individuals from the Southwest Atlantic subpopulation (IWC 2013).

The virtual absence of sightings off Peru and Chile in summer is strongly suggestive of a seasonal migration, either to offshore waters or to the sub-Antarctic in summer. The summer feeding grounds are unknown.

Countries occurrence:
Chile; Peru
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – southeast
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):UnknownEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):Unknown
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


Best (1987) estimated that American whalers in the 19th century killed over 14,600 Southern Right Whales in the South Pacific, but he did not attempt to allocate the catch to any specific geographic regions. French whalers in the 19th century took about 2,372 Right Whales along the coast of Chile (Du Pasquier 1986). Those estimates do not include any allowance for struck and lost animals. Between 1929 and 1966, a total of 119 right whales were recorded as killed by shore-based whalers in Chilean waters and none in Peru (Aguayo 1974). In the two decades between 1951 and 1971, Soviet pelagic whaling operations killed at least 3,368 Right Whales in the Southern Hemisphere but none in the eastern South Pacific (Tormosov et al. 1998).

Sightings of Right Whales in the eastern South Pacific during 1975-2010 totalled 134 individuals of which 27 were calves. The minimum number of distinct mothers, taking into account the 3-4 year breeding cycle, was eight (Vernazzani et al. 2014). There was no significant increase in the sighting rate over this period, although effort could not be quantified. The Chile-Peru Southern Right Whale subpopulation is too rare to determine whether there is a trend in abundance, and it is reasonable to infer that there are fewer than 50 mature individuals. The subpopulation qualifies for listing on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered under criterion D.

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1-49Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:UnknownPopulation severely fragmented:Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Based on the sightings of Right Whales since the 1970s off Peru and Chile, it appears that all coastal waters between 15°S and 47°S contain suitable habitat in winter and spring for breeding, migration, and possibly feeding. The summer habitat of the Chile-Peru Southern Right Whale subpopulation is unknown.

Females in other subpopulations produce calves at 3-5 year intervals and calves are born between June and October with a peak in August (Best 1994). The diet of Southern Right Whales consists mainly of copepods and euphausiids (Tormosov et al. 1998). 

Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The Chile-Peru Southern Right Whale subpopulation is no longer hunted or traded.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Right whale mortality due to ship strikes and entanglements in fishing gear is known to occur throughout the Southern Hemisphere (IWC 2001). For the Chile-Peru Southern Right Whale subpopulation, Canto et al. (1991) documented a dead calf with propeller injuries and two recent cases of entanglement have been reported. A severely entangled whale was sighted alive off Pichilemu (34°S) in October 2014 but not seen again. An adult whale of unknown sex was found dead in February 2017 on the northwest coast of Isla de Chiloe (41°S) with signs of severe entanglement. It was found a few days after being seen alive in a moribund state (Galletti Vernazzani et al. 2017). Due to the very small population size, any level of human-caused deaths could prevent recovery of this subpopulation.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Southern Right Whales have been legally protected from commercial whaling since the 1930s through international agreements concluded in 1931 and 1946, but this protection did not extend to Chile (as it was not party to those agreements) where the last Right Whale was legally caught in 1966 (Aguayo 1974). Although Right Whales were taken illegally by Soviet pelagic fleets until the early 1970s, none of these were taken in the southeast Pacific. Southern Right Whales now have legal protection from harm and harassment in Chilean waters under the 2008 Law for the Protection of Cetaceans. A Conservation Management Plan proposed by Chile and Peru has been endorsed by the International Whaling Commission (Vernazzani et al. 2016). No specific protection areas for Right Whales exist in Chile or Peru.

Citation: Cooke, J.G. 2018. Eubalaena australis (Chile-Peru subpopulation). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T133704A50385137. . Downloaded on 21 August 2018.
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