In October 2023, eleven humpback whales have been tagged with satellite transmitters off the coast of Ecuador during the 2023 migration season as part of an ongoing partnership between the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador (PUCE) and Whales & Climate Research Program (WCP) at Griffith University and the and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, deployed tags on adult whales in early October off Salinas, before whales started their migration to Antarctica.
Humpback whales that frequent the coasts of Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica between June and October to reproduce belong to one of the seven stocks in the southern hemisphere.
Every year around 12,000 whales from this population migrate more than 15,000km along the west coast of South America to mate and nurse their calves in the warm tropical waters of north-western South America.
During this period, the whales spend between three and four months without feeding, so once the reserves are depleted, they have to return to Antarctic waters for feeding.
The work forms part of the global research activities of the Whales & Climate Research Program, an initiative that brings together more than 25 researchers from eight institutions in the southern hemisphere under the leadership of Griffith University.