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
Spanish Ballena franca austral
Taxonomic Notes: Subpopulation of Eubalaena australis (Desmoulins, 1822). The Southern Right Whale has for some time been widely accepted as a species separate from its northern hemisphere relatives, although Rice (1998) regarded the right whales in all oceans as a single species, and placed them in the genus Balaena along with B. mysticetus, the Bowhead Whale. Recent genetic analyses support the concept of three separate phylogenetic species of right whale, one in the North Atlantic, one in the North Pacific, and one in the Southern Hemisphere (Rosenbaum et al. 2000). The International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) accept the latter taxonomy (IWC 2004). The ranges of the three species do not overlap.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2008-07-01
Assessor(s): Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J., Donovan, G.P., Urbán, J. & Zerbini, A.N.
Reviewer(s): Taylor, B.L. & Notarbartolo di Sciara, G.
Very little is known about this subpopulation except that it was once numerous off Chile. Although no estimate of abundance exists for right whales in the waters off Chile and Peru, the paucity of sightings over the past 50 years makes it very probable that the mature population size is below 50 individuals.
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. In the case of Chile-Peru, the northernmost sighting is from 15° 08’ S in Bahia San Fernando, Peru. During the austral winter and spring, these whales are known from southern Peru (Santillan et al. 2004) to central Chile (Aguayo and Torres 1986, Aguayo et al. 1992). During the same seasons, they are observed passing through coastal waters between southern Peru and central Chile. The right whales in this population need to be considered isolated due to their breeding location and lack of any observable increase in numbers over the past four decades.

The map shows where the species may occur based on oceanography. The species has not been recorded for all the states within the hypothetical range as shown on the map. States for which confirmed records of the species exist are included in the list of native range states.

Countries occurrence:
Chile; Peru
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – southeast
Additional data:
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 geographic regions. French whalers in the 19th century took about 2,372 right whales along the coast of Chile (Du Pasquier 1986). These estimates do not include any allowance for struck and lost animals. During the 20th century between 1929 and 1966, a total of 119 right whales were killed by shore-based whalers in Chilean waters (Aguayo 1974). In only two decades between 1951 and 1971, Soviet pelagic whaling operations killed at least 3,368 right whales in the Southern Hemisphere (Tormosov et al. 1998). These catches occurred in all the major habitats where right whales are known to be increasing today but none of these Soviet catches occurred in the waters off Chile and Peru.

The IWC conducted its last major review of southern right whales in 1998 (IWC 2001), but little information was available for the whales in the waters off Chile and Peru. Between 1964 and 1991, only 16 female-calf pairs were recorded from south-central to northern Chile and none from Peru (Van Waerebeek et al. 1998). The first female-calf pair in southern Peru was recorded in 1996 (Van Waerebeek et al. 1998). There were no known major catches by coastal whalers off Chile in the past and Peru during the 20th century and no catches in this region by Soviet pelagic operations between the 1950s and early 1970s. Thus, it is surprising that no increase has been observed in this subpopulation. Other subpopulations (Australia, Argentina and South Africa) have shown increases with doubling of times around 10-12 years. The maximum 1-day count of only four whales (Aguayo et al. 1992) is extremely low compared to maximum daily counts of 15, 40, 155 and 256 (2 days) off southeast Australia, southwest Australia, Argentina, and South Africa respectively (IWC 2001).

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Based of sightings of right whales in recent years off Chile, all coastal waters appear to be important areas used as migratory corridors. Southern right whale habitat is poorly known because of the small population size. Females have been recorded with calves in southern Peru 15°– 17° S, Antofagasta, Chile 23° – 25°S, Valparaiso, Chile (31° – 33°S), and Arauco to Osorno, Chile (37°– 40°S), and there is a single record from Punta Arenas, Chile (53°S). Females in other populations produce calves at 3–5 year intervals and calves are born between June and October with a peak in August (Best 1994). The diet consists mainly of copepods and euphausiids (Tormosov et al. 1998).

Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Right whale mortality due to entanglements in fishing gear and collisions with ships is known throughout the Southern Hemisphere (IWC 2001). In Chile, two whale deaths from human activities are known. One was a calf harpooned by fishermen (Aguayo et al. 1992) and the other was a calf that stranded after being struck by a vessel (Canto et al.1991). Mortality caused by entanglements and vessel strikes is a very serious issue for western North Atlantic right whales. Similarly, any human-caused mortality in the subpopulation off Chile and Peru, especially of females, would have a serious impact on the subpopulation.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Southern right whales have been protected from commercial whaling through international agreements in1935 and 1946, but not in Chile where the last right whale was killed 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. No specific protection areas exist in Chile and Peru for right whales. 

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.1. Marine Neritic - Pelagic
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.1. Marine Oceanic - Epipelagic (0-200m)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.3. Shipping lanes
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.3. Unintentional effects: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

Bibliography [top]

Aguayo, A. and Torres, D. 1986. Records of the southern right whale, Eubalaena australis (Desmoulins 1822) from Chile between 1976 and 1982. Reports of the International Whaling Commission (Special Issue) 10: 159-160.

Aguayo, A., Cardenas, J. and Torres, D. 1992. Analisis de los avistamientos de Eubalaena australis (Desmoulins, 1822) en aguas chilenas, desde 1983 hasta 1989. Series Cientificas Instituto Nacional Antartico Chileno 42: 77-91.

Aguayo L.A. 1974. Baleen whales off continental Chile. In: W.E. Schevill (ed.), The Whale Problem: A Status Report, pp. 209-217. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Best, P.B. 1987. Estimates of the landed catch of right (and other whalebone) whales in the American fishery, 1805-1909. Fishery Bulletin 85(3): 403-418.

Best, P.B. 1994. Seasonality of reproduction and the length of gestation in southern right whales Eubalaena australis. Journal of Zoology (London) 232: 175-189.

Canto, J., Ruiz, P. and Cardenas, J.C. 1991. Necropsia de ballena franca austral Eubalaena australis y consideraciones sobre manejo de la specie. Boletin Museo Nacional Historia Natural Chile 42: 105-111.

Du Pasquier, T. 1986. Catch history of French right whaling mainly in the South Atlantic. Reports of the International Whaling Commission (Special Issue) 10: 269-274.

International Whaling Commission. 2001. Report of the workshop on the comprehensive assessment of right whales: a worldwide comparison. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management (Special Issue) 2: 1-60.

International Whaling Commission. 2004. Classification of the order Cetacea. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 6(1): xi-xii.

IUCN. 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2013.1). Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2013).

Rice, D.W. 1998. Marine Mammals of the World: Systematics and Distribution. Allen Press, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Rice, D.W. 1998. Marine Mammals of the World: Systematics and Distribution. Society for Marine Mammalogy, Lawrence, Kansas.

Rosenbaum, H. C., Brownell Jr., R. L., Brown, M. W., Scaeff, S. C., Portway, V., White, B. N., Malik, S. and Pastene, L. A. 2000. World-wide genetic differentiation of Eubalaena: Questioning the number of right whale species. Molecular Ecology 9: 1793-1802.

Rosenbaum H.C., Brownell Jr., R.L., Brown, M.W., Schaeff, C., Portway, V., White, B N., Malik, S., Pastene, L.A., Patenaude, N.J., Baker, C.S., Goto, M., Best, P.B., Clapham, P.J., Hamilton, P., Moore, M., Payne, R., Rowntree, V., Tynan, C.T., Bannister, J.L. and DeSalle, R. 2000. World-wide genetic differentiation of Eubalaena: questioning the number of right whale species. Molecular Ecology 9: 1793-1802.

Santillan, L., Roca, M., Apaza, M., Rosa de Oliveira, L., and Onton, K. 2004. New record of mother-calf pair of southern right whale, Eubalaena australis, off the Peruvian coast. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 3(1): 83-84.

Tormosov, D.D., Mikhaliev, Y.A., Best, P.B., Zemsky, V.A., Sekiguchi, K. and Brownell Jr., R.L. 1998. Soviet catches of Southern Right Whales Eubalaena australis, 1951–1971. Biological data and conservation implications. Biological Conservation 86: 185–197.

Van Waerebeek, K., Reyes, J. and Van Bressem, M.F. 1998. Sighting of a mother-calf southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) in Peruvian waters. Estudios Oceanologicos 17: 105-107.

Citation: Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J., Donovan, G.P., Urbán, J. & Zerbini, A.N. 2013. Eubalaena australis (Chile-Peru subpopulation). In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T133704A44231477. . Downloaded on 23 June 2018.
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