Subject: Scientists Find Whale, Dolphin Hot Spot Off East Timor
also: Major cetacean hotspot found off E. Timor
Scientists Find Whale, Dolphin Hot Spot Off East Timor
By Tara Ravens
DARWIN, Dec 31 AAP - Thousands of dolphins and whales have been sighted in
the deep waters off East Timor, with scientists hoping the migratory corridor
will jump-start the tiny country's tourism sector.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has conducted the country's
first major boat-based survey of cetaceans in a joint project with the Timor-Leste
"The dolphins and small whales were literally jumping out of the water
all around us, it was hard to know which animal to photograph," said
Timorese researcher Jose Monteiro.
Working on board a traditional 20-metre wooden Indonesian vessel, the
scientists were surprised to uncover a global hot spot of whale and dolphin
They identified about 10 species of cetaceans, including blue whales, beaked
whales, short-finned pilot whales, melon headed whales and six species of
In one day alone, more than 1,000 individuals in eight separate pods were
spotted over a 50-kilometre stretch of coast.
"This is among the highest level of cetacean abundance ever
recorded," said principal scientist Karen Edyvane.
"We were all amazed to see such an abundance, diversity and density of
Prof Edyvane said the findings confirmed that the deep oceanic waters off
East Timor - along the Wetar and Ombai straits - were a major migratory route
for marine wildlife moving between the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Celestino Barreto de Cunha, director of fisheries management within East
Timor's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, said the marine hot spot could
hold the key to the developing nation's tourism industry.
"The government recognises the enormous potential for marine ecotourism
along its coast and will proceed very carefully in the development of this
industry," he said.
"We are committed to ensuring that this marine biodiversity is protected
and we will continue to look to Australia to provide good scientific advice on
developing a sustainable marine ecotourism industry."
AIMS project leader Dr Mark Meekan said ecotourism had become one of the
world's fastest growing marine industries and could provide a much needed boost
to East Timor's economy.
"There are absolutely huge numbers of cetaceans, that is whales and
dolphins," he said.
"It is probably a global hot spot for biodiversity of these animals -
it's really quite striking."
Major cetacean hotspot found off E. Timor
JAKARTA, Dec. 31 (Kyodo News) -- A major migratory corridor of dolphins and
whales has been found in the deep oceans off East Timor, according to a media
release on Wednesday.
Australian and East Timorese scientists have identified 10 species of whales,
including blue whales, beaked whales, short-finned pilot whales and melon-headed
whales, and six species of dolphins, according to the release.
''This is among the highest level of cetacean abundance ever recorded,'' said
principal scientist Karen Edyvane of the environment department of Australia's
Northern Territory government.
''We were all amazed to see such an abundance, diversity and density of
cetaceans,'' she said.
Edyvane said several cetologists had long believed that the deep oceanic
waters off Timor Island, along the Wetar and Ombai straits, are a major
migratory route between the Pacific and Indian oceans for marine wildlife.
The survey was conducted by scientists of the Northern Territory's
environment department, along with East Timor's Agriculture and Fisheries
Ministry and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
Project leader Mark Meekan said it was the first major boat-based survey of
cetaceans, following a six-month intensive aerial survey of marine wildlife
along East Timor coasts.
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