Subject: Right Whales:AUCKLAND ISLAND SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALES GENETICALLY UNIQUE (fwd)

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Sun, 18 Jan 1998 19:54:00 -0500 (EST)

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 1998 09:29:11 -0500
From: Terry Hardie <terry@orcas.net>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
     <MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA>
To: MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA
Subject: AUCKLAND ISLAND SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALES GENETICALLY UNIQUE

15-Jan-98 10:00 pm Regular  National

AUCKLAND ISLAND SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALES GENETICALLY UNIQUE


   Auckland, Jan 15 - The discovery of a distinct group of southern
right whales in New Zealand waters was hailed today as an exciting
scientific find.
   Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced the discovery of the
population of southern right whales in the Southern Ocean whale
sanctuary off the remote Auckland Islands, 320km south of Stewart
Island.
   Analysis of DNA taken harmlessly from the animals indicated they
could be remnants of a once numerous New Zealand population of
southern rights, which can exceed 18m in length and weigh up to 100
tonnes.
   The joint Department of Conservation-University of Auckland
project has found the whales to be a distinct group but it is
unknown whether they are survivors of the New Zealand population or
a separate Auckland Islands group.
   The next stage of the work will be to extract DNA from New
Zealand southern rights in whale products from museums to discover
the origin of the population.
   But University of Auckland scientist Nathalie Patenaude, who is
conducting the research with support from the World Wide Fund for
Nature New Zealand and the oil company Shell, said there was no
question the population was genetically different from Australian,
South African and Argentine populations.
    ``On an international level it is very significant because this
new rediscovered population ups the numbers of the species. On a
national level it was thought to be extinct ... so to find a group
in New Zealand waters is important,'' she said.
   Possibly only a few hundred of the baleen or filter-feeding
southern rights survive in the Southern Hemisphere. A count last
year found a minimum of 147 Auckland Islands whales, including
calves.
   Ms Patenaude, a Quebecoise who has studied northern right whales
in Alaskan waters but is now a New Zealand resident, said the
southern rights were interesting because they lived in a pristine
area of the world untouched by humans, having escaped extreme
exploitation probably because they had no concept of fear.
    ``On a personal level I think they are the nicest, gentlest,
sweetest animal I've met. They beat the humpback WHALE any day.''
   The discovery will boost a call by WWF New Zealand for a ban on
whaling in the Southern Ocean sanctuary where a Japanese whaling
fleet is now engaged in its annual slaughter of minke whales,
another baleen species.


NZPA NZH ab gt