New Zealand’s blue whales under threat from seafloor mining

SCUBA News |  23 May 2018

A group of blue whales that frequent the South Taranaki Bight between the North and South islands of New Zealand appears to be part of a local population that is genetically distinct from other blue whales in the Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean, a new study has found.

Hydrophones deployed in the region recorded blue whale calls on 99.7 percent of the days between January and December in 2016.

“There is no doubt that New Zealand blue whales are genetically distinct, but we’re still not certain about how many of them there are,” researcher Dawn Barlow commented. “We have generated a minimum abundance estimate of 718, and we also were able to document eight individuals that we re-sighted in multiple years in New Zealand waters, including one whale seen in three of the four years with a different calf each time, and many others we saw at least once.”

The study, led by Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, is important because the South Taranaki Bight has several oil and gas extraction rigs and the New Zealand government recently issued its first permit for mining the seafloor there for iron sands. Churning up the sand could muddy the sea and disrupt the natural food chain. The sand will be sucked up to a floating production vessel, the valuable iron content removed and shipped away for further processing while the sandy remains are pumped back to the seabed.

The blue whales found off New Zealand are not quite as large as Antarctic blue whales, which scientists believe to be the largest animals to have ever lived on Earth. Antarctic blues, when they reach adulthood, can range from 28 to 30 meters in length (nearly 100 feet). The other blue whales, though slightly smaller, are still formidable at about 22 meters in length (or 72 feet).



Filed under Environmental impact, New Zealand

2 responses to “New Zealand’s blue whales under threat from seafloor mining

  1. Gee Mail

    What a load of whale crap – how will whales be impacted by deep sea mining?

  2. Like the “rock spider” who is sexually attracted to children; a paedophile.
    Now the “jumping spider” …. similar but worse.!!!!

    Nautilus Minerals has completed the first trial of its newly developed autonomous sediment sampler.

    On landing on the seafloor, the Nautilus “Jumping Spider” a mechanical trigger starts both the suction system that delivers sediment up the tubular legs and into the sample housing. Following the release of a biodegradable sacrificial ballast weight, a deep-sea float lifts the sampler back to surface for later collection.

    The spider inspired samplers have been developed to allow the exploration team to significantly increase sediment collection efficiencies from the seafloor while decreasing costs, potentially by an order of magnitude. The company plans to test the system in both Papua New Guinea and Tonga, (over ares that are greater than the land area of the United Kingdom), in the later part of 2018, subject to financing.

    Nautilus has previously demonstrated the effectiveness of low cost grid sediment sampling in the highly sedimented East Manus Basin off Papua New Guinea. The challenge was to extend this technique to rocky low sedimented areas, with a further reduction in cost to allow for even more extensive sampling programs.

    The system was designed and largely built in-house.

    Nautilus is the first company to explore the ocean floor for polymetallic seafloor deposits. It was granted the first mining lease for such deposits at the prospect known as Solwara 1, in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea, where it is aiming to produce copper, gold and silver. Nautilus also holds highly prospective exploration acreage in the western Pacific as well as in international waters in the Central Pacific.

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