|Scientific Name:||Eubalaena australis (Desmoulins, 1822)|
|Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:|
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. 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 2004) and the Society for Marine Mammalogy's Taxonomy Committee (Committee on Taxonomy 2017) accept the latter taxonomy. The ranges of the three Right Whale species do not overlap.
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Least Concern ver 3.1|
|Assessor(s):||Cooke, J.G. & Zerbini, A.N.|
|Reviewer(s):||Brownell Jr., R.L., Clapham, P.J., Jackson, J., Reeves, R. & Taylor, B.L.|
The current hemispheric population trend for Southern Right Whales is uncertain, in view of the recent evidence for levelling-off in the population growth in some of the major areas (southwest Atlantic and Australia) and the recent steep apparent decline in the southeast Atlantic. However, given the estimated total population size (13,600 individuals in 2009; IWC 2013), and the 5-10 fold increase in the population since the 1970s, the species, although still scarce relative to its historical abundance, is not considered under threat at the hemispheric level. The population size is estimated to be larger now than it was three generations ago (87 years, assuming a generation time of 29 years; Taylor et al. 2007). By IUCN Red List criteria, the species is assessed as Least Concern. Some breeding subpopulations are still very small and may need special protection to survive. The very small population off Chile/Peru has been assessed separately and listed as Critically Endangered.
|Previously published Red List assessments:|
Southern Right Whales have a circumpolar distribution in the Southern Hemisphere. The distribution in winter, at least of the breeding component of the population, is concentrated near coastlines in the northern part of the range. Major current breeding areas are off southern Australia, New Zealand (particularly Auckland Islands and Campbell Islands), Atlantic coast of South America (Argentina and Brazil), and southern Africa (South Africa and Namibia). Small numbers are also seen off central Chile, Peru, Tristan da Cunha, and the east coast of Madagascar (Rosenbaum et al. 2001). In summer, Right Whales are found mainly in latitudes 40-50°S (Ohsumi and Kasamatsu 1986) but also occur in the Antarctic as far south as 65°S (Bannister et al. 1999) and around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Nijs and Rowntree 2017). Movements of individuals between subantarctic waters in summer and winter calving grounds have been documented using photo-identification and satellite tracking (Bannister et al. 1999, Best et al. 1993, Pirzl et al. 2009, Zerbini et al. 2016, Nijs and Rowntree 2017).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.
Native:Antarctica; Argentina; Australia; Bouvet Island; Brazil; Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); French Southern Territories (Kerguelen); Madagascar; Mozambique; Namibia; New Zealand; Peru; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (Tristan da Cunha); South Africa; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Uruguay
|FAO Marine Fishing Areas:|
Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – southeast; Atlantic – Antarctic; Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Indian Ocean – Antarctic; Pacific – southeast; Pacific – southwest
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
Southern Right Whales were hunted extensively by pre-modern whaling starting in the early 17th century, but especially in the 18th and 19th centuries by American and European whalers. Not all records have survived, and there is uncertainty over the numbers of animals killed but not landed. The total number processed between 1770 and 1900 is conservatively estimated at about 150,000, of which 48,000-60,000 were taken in the 1830s alone. By the start of modern whaling at the beginning of the 20th century, the species was already rare, and catches thereafter until Right Whales were legally protected in 1935 totalled only about 1,000. Over 3,000 were taken illegally by Soviet whaling fleets mainly in the 1960s (Tormosov et al. 1998). The hemispheric population in 1770 is estimated to have been over 70,000 and to have been depleted to a low of about 300 animals by the 1920s. The species began to recover following protection in 1935, but the illegal Soviet catches in the 1960s are estimated to have removed over half of the remaining population and delayed recovery (IWC 2001, 2013).
Four breeding populations of Southern Right Whales (southwest Atlantic – Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, southeast Atlantic – South Africa and Namibia; Australia; and southwest Pacific – New Zealand) have shown strong recoveries, with doubling times of 10-12 years (Bannister et al. 2001, 2016; Cooke et al. 2001, 2015; Best et al. 2001, Brandão et al. 2013, Jackson et al. 2016). Two further suspected breeding populations (southeast Pacific – Chile and Peru, and southwest Indian Ocean – Madagascar and Mozambique) remain at very low numbers and show no clear evidence of any increase.
The pan-hemispheric population was estimated to have reached 13,600 animals by 2009 and still to have been increasing strongly (IWC 2013). In recent years there has been evidence of a levelling-off of increase rates in the western South Atlantic (Crespo et al. 2017) and in western Australia (Bannister et al. 2016, IWC 2018). The southeast Atlantic population (South Africa and Namibia) appears to have declined sharply since 2015 for unknown reasons (Findlay et al. 2017).
There can be substantial interchange of Southern Right Whales between breeding grounds off the same continent, for example between Argentina and Brazil (Groch et al. 2005), and some interchange between continents and major land masses, for example between Argentina and South Africa (Best et al. 1993) and Australia and New Zealand (Pirzl et al. 2009). As the populations recover the winter ranges of each population seems to have been expanding to include more of the historical range, for example, Argentina to Brazil (IWC 2013), Auckland Islands and Campbell Islands to mainland New Zealand (Carroll et al. 2014), and South Africa to Namibia (Roux et al. 2015). Recovery within regions has been uneven. The calving numbers in southwestern Australia have increased but they remain low in southeastern Australia despite the latter having been a major calving and whaling ground in the 1800s (IWC 2018).
|Current Population Trend:||Unknown|
|Habitat and Ecology:|
Southern Right Whales have been well-studied on their wintering grounds, especially at Peninsula Valdés, Argentina, off the southern coast of Australia, and off South Africa. Researchers have used callosity patterns to identify individuals on these grounds, and have learned much about the Southern Right Whale's behaviour and reproduction. Calves are born from June to October with a peak in August after a 12-13 month gestation period (Best 1994). Females usually produce calves at 3-year intervals when these are successfully reared, but the interval can shorten to 2 years following perinatal loss of a calf, which often results in an apparent 5-year interval (Cooke et al. 2001, 2015; Leaper et al. 2006). In recent years off Argentina greater numbers of dead calves and a correspondingly greater number of documented two-year intervals have been observed (Rowntree et al. 2013, Sironi et al. 2016).
Where feeding occurs north of 40°S the diet consists mainly of copepods, south of 50°S mainly euphausiids (krill), and varying proportions of the two food items at intermediate latitudes (Tormosov et al. 1998). Evidence from stable isotope analysis suggests that different individuals frequent different feeding grounds and that fidelity to feeding grounds is maternally directed (Morgana et al. 2014, Valenzuela et al. 2009).
|Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:||No|
|Movement patterns:||Full Migrant|
|Use and Trade:||The Southern Right Whale is no longer hunted. It was once the target of major commercial whaling.|
Like their congeners in the Northern Hemisphere, Southern Right Whales can die from entanglement in fishing gear and from ship strikes (IWC 2001). However, this does not seem to have impeded their recovery, at least in the main areas of abundance. The lower average density of human populations, and thus fishing, shipping, and other potentially harmful activities in the Southern Hemisphere, compared with the western North Atlantic, probably makes this species less affected by such activities than is the North Atlantic Right Whale (IWC 2013).
There has been a marked increase since 2003 in stranded Right Whale carcasses in the two bays (Golfo Nuevo and Golfo San José) on Península Valdés, Argentina, where the whales congregate in the winter and spring. The number of carcasses found averaged 63 per year during 2006-2015, of which about 90% were newborn calves (Rowntree et al. 2013, Sironi et al. 2016). A number of possible factors in the calf deaths have been suggested, including nutritional stress, biotoxin exposure from harmful algal blooms (Wilson et al. 2015), and harassment by from Kelp Gulls (IWC 2016). There has been concern that the level of mortality may be anomalously high (a “die-off”, ) (IWC 2011). However, a long-term analysis of calf mortality rates in this population showed that the rate has remained fairly low over most of the last 40 years, averaging around 18% with some inter-annual fluctuation but with recent levels not being unusually high (Cooke et al. 2015). For most cetacean populations, only a small proportion of dead animals are ever found (Williams et al. 2011), but the geography of the Península Valdéz wintering ground with its two semi-enclosed bays likely facilitates the stranding and discovery of dead calves. This provides a unique opportunity to study the causes of calf mortality.
Observed correlations between breeding success off Argentina and sea surface temperature anomalies at South Georgia suggest that as Antarctic feeding grounds warm up, the average calf survival rate of Southern Right Whales would be expected to decline (Leaper et al. 2006). Off Brazil, reproductive success depends on body condition and therefore foraging success, which in turn are at least partly determined by climate-driven changes in krill density (Seyboth et al. 2016).The recent decline in Right Whales off South Africa, evident in single animals since 2010 and in cow-calf pairs since 2015, is unexplained (Findlay et al. 2017). No increases in sightings in other areas have been reported that might account for the missing whales. An as yet unidentified factor may threaten this subpopulation.
All Right Whales have been legally protected from commercial hunting since the 1930s, but this has only been fully respected since the early 1970s when the presence of international observers discouraged illegal catching by Soviet fleets, and land stations in South America also stopped taking Right WhalesProtected areas with specific management measures aimed at protecting Right Whales in their nursery grounds include the Right Whale Environmental Protection Area (Area de Proteção Ambiental de Baleia Franca) off Catarina State in Brazil, the Golfo San José Provincial Marine Park (Parque Marino Golfo San José) in Argentina, and the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in South Australia. The IWC has endorsed Conservation Management Plans developed by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile for the southwest Atlantic population, and by Chile and Peru for the Critically Endangered subpopulation in the eastern South Pacific (see separate listing).
The species is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.
Bannister, J.L. 2001. Status of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) off southern Australia. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management Special Issue 2: 103-110.
Bannister, J.L., Hammond, P.S. and Double, M.C. 2016. Population trends in right whales off southern Australia 1993-2015. International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee Document SC/66b/BRG09.
Bannister, J. L., Pastene, L. A. and Burnell, L. A. 1999. First record of movement of a southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) between warm water breeding grounds and the Antarctic Ocean, south of 60 degrees South. Marine Mammal Science 15(4): 1337-1342.
Best, P. B. 1994. Seasonality of reproduction and the length of gestation in southern right whale Eubalaena australis. Journal of Zoology (London) 232: 175-189.
Best, P. B., Brandao, A. and Butterworth, D. S. 2001. Demographic parameters of southern right whales off South Africa. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management Special Issue 2: 161-169.
Best, P. B., Payne, R., Rowntree, V., Palazo, J. T. and do Carmo Both, M. 1993. Long-range movements of South Atlantic right whales Eubalaena australis. Marine Mammal Science 9: 227-234.
Brandão, A., Butterworth, D.S., Ross-Gillespie, A. and Best, P.B. 2013. Application of a photo-identification based assessment model to southern right whales in South African waters, now including data up to 2012. International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee Document SC/65a/BRG17.
Carroll E.L., Rayment W.J., Alexander A.M., Baker C.S., Patenaude N.J., Steel D., Constantine R., Cole R., Boren L.J., Childerhouse S. 2014. Reestablishment of former wintering grounds by New Zealand southern right whales. Marine Mammal Science 30(1): 206-220.
Committee on Taxonomy. 2017. List of marine mammal species and subspecies. Society for Marine Mammalogy, www.marinemammalscience.org, consulted on 20 December 2017.
Cooke, J. G., Rowntree, V. J. and Payne, R. S. 2001. Estimates of demographic parameters for southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) observed off Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 2: 125-132.
Cooke J.G., Rowntree V.J. and Sironi M. 2015. Southwest Atlantic right whales: interim updated population assessment from photo-id data collected at Península Valdéz. International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee Document SC/66a/BRG 23.
Crespo, E.A., Coscarella, M.A., Pedraza, S.N., Dans, S.L., Svendsen, G.M. & Degrati, M. 2017. Southern right whales Eubalaena australis still growing but at a decelerated speed. IWC Scientific Committee document SC/67a/CMP01.
Fazio A., Bertellotti M. and Villanueva C. 2012. Kelp gulls attack Southern right whales: a conservation concern? Marine biology 159(9): 1981-90.
Findlay, K., Thornton, M., Wilkinson, C., Vermeulen, E. & Hoerbst, S. 2017. Report on the 2016 Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit Southern Right Whale Survey, Nature's Valley to Lambert's Bay, South Africa. IWC Scientific Committee document SC/67a/SH05.
Groch, K.R., Palazzo Jr, J.T., Flores, P.A.C., Adler, F.R. and Fabian, M.E. 2005. Recent rapid increases in the Brazilian right whale population. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 4(1): 41-47.
International Whaling Commission. 2001b. 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. 2011. Report of the southern right whale die-off workshop. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 12(Supplement): 367–398.
International Whaling Commission. 2013. Report of the workshop on the assessment of southern right whales. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 14(Supplement): 437-462.
International Whaling Commission. 2016. Report of the second workshop on mortality of Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) at Península Valdés, Argentina. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 17(Supplement): 583-598.
International Whaling Commission. 2018. Report of the subcommittee on other Southern Hemisphere whale stocks. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 19(Supplement): 000-000.
IUCN. 2018. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2018-1. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 28 June 2018).
Jackson J.A., Carroll E.L., Smith T.D., Zerbini A.N., Patenaude N.J., Baker C.S. 2016. An integrated approach to historical population assessment of the great whales: case of the New Zealand southern right whale. Royal Society Open Science 3(150669.).
Leaper, R., Cooke, J. G., Trathan, P., Reid, K., Rowntree, V. and Payne, R. 2006. Global climate drives southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) population dynamics. Biology Letters 2: 289-292.
Lisnizer, N.; García Borboroglu P., Yorio P. 2011. Spatial and temporal variations in kelp gull population trends in northern Patagonia, Argentina. Emu - Austral Ornithology 111: 259-267.
Marón CF, Beltramino L, Di Martino M, Chirife A, Seger J, Uhart M, Sironi M, Rowntree VJ. 2015. Increased wounding of Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis) calves by Kelp Gulls (Larus dominicanus) at Península Valdés, Argentina. PloS ONE 10(10): e0139291.
Morgana Vighi M., Borrell A., Crespo E.A., Oliveira L.R., Simões-Lopes P.C., Flores P.A.C., García N.A. and Aguilar A. 2014. Stable Isotopes Indicate Population Structuring in the Southwest Atlantic Population of Right Whales (Eubalaena australis). PloS ONE 9(3): dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0090489.
Nijs G. and Rowntree V.J. 2017. Rare sightings of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) on a feeding ground off the South Sandwich Islands, including a known individual from Península Valdés, Argentina. Marine Mammal Science 33(1): 342-349.
Ohsumi, S. and Kasamatsu, F. 1986. Recent off-shore distribution of the southern right whale in summer. Reports of the International Whaling Commission Special Issue 10: 177-186.
Pirzl R., Patenaude N.J., Burnell S. and Bannister J.L. 2009. Movements of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) between Australian and subantarctic New Zealand populations. Marine Mammal Science 25(2): 455-461.
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., Razafindrakoto, Y., Vahoavy, J. and Pomilla, C. 2001. A note on recent sightings of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) along the east coast of Madagascar. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 2: 177-179.
Roux J.P., Braby R.J. and Best, P.B. 2015. Does disappearance mean extirpation? The case of right whales off Namibia. Marine Mammal Science 31(3): 1132-1152.
Rowntree, V. J., Mcguinness, P., Marshall, K., Payne, R., Sironi, M. and Seger, J. 1998. Increase harassment of right whales (Eubalaena australis) by kelp gulls (Larus dominicanus) at Peninsula Valdez, Argentina. Marine Mammal Science 14(1): 99-115.
Rowntree V.J., Uhart M.M., Sironi M., Chirife A., Di Martino M., La Sala L., Musmeci L., Mohamed N., Andrejuk J., McAloose D., Emilio Sala J., Carribero A., Rally H., Franco M., Adler F.R., Brownell R.L. Jr., Seger J., Rowles T. 2013. Unexplained recurring high mortality of southern right whale Eubalaena australis calves at Penïnsula Valdïs, Argentina. Marine Ecology Progress Series 493(275-289).
Seyboth E., Groch K.R., Dalla Rosa, L., Reid K., Flores P.A.C., Secchi, E. 2016. Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis) reproductive success is Influenced by krill (Euphausia superba) Density and Climate. Nature Scientific Reports 6: doi:10.1038/srep28205.
Sironi, M., Rowntree, V.J., Di Martino, M., Beltramino, L., Rago, V., Marón, C.F. and Uhart, M. 2016. Southern right whale mortalities at Península Valdés, Argentina: updated information for 2014-2015. International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee Document SC/66b/BRG/02. Bled, Slovenia, June 2016.
Taylor, B.L., Chivers, S.J., Larese, J. and Perrin, W.F. 2007. Generation length and percent mature estimates for IUCN assessments of Cetaceans. NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California. Administrative Report LJ-07-01.
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.
Valenzuela A.O., Sironi M., Rowntree V.J. and Seger J. 2009. Isotopic and genetic evidence for culturally inherited site fidelity to feeding grounds in southern right whales (Eubalaena australis). Molecular Ecology 18(5): 782-791.
Williams R., Gero S., Bejder L., Calambokidis J., Kraus S.D., Lusseau D., Read A.J., and Robbins J. 2011. Underestimating the damage: interpreting cetacean carcass recoveries in the context of the Deepwater Horizon/BP incident. Conservation Letters 4: 228–233.
Wilson C., Sastre A.V., Hoffmeyer M., Rowntree V.J., Fire S.E., Santinelli N.H., Ovejero S.D., D'Agostino V., Marón C.F., Doucette G.J., Broadwater M.H., Wang Z., Montoya N., Seger J., Adler F.R., Sironi M. and Uhart M.M. 2015. Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) calf mortality at Península Valdés, Argentina: Are harmful algal blooms to blame? Marine Mammal Science 32(2): 423-451.
Zerbini, A.N., Rosenbaum, H., Mendez, M., Sucunza, F., Andriolo, A., Harris, G., Clapham, P.J., Sironi, M., Uhart, M. and Aió, A.F. 2016. Tracking southern right whales through the southwest Atlantic: an update on movements, migratory routes and feeding grounds. International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee Document SC/66b/BRG 26.
|Citation:||Cooke, J.G. & Zerbini, A.N. 2018. Eubalaena australis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T8153A50354147.Downloaded on 22 September 2018.|
|Feedback:||If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided|