37% of all marine mammals are at a risk of extinction, with 25% of marine mammal species listed as ‘threatened’. Whales and dolphins in the southern ocean face many threats that potentially impact on their long-term survival; including habitat degradation, anthropogenic activities, over-exploitation of prey species, oceanic and environmental changes. In addition, the loss of top apex predators, such as cetaceans, has the potential to seriously impact on lower trophic levels and important ecosystem functions. There is a distinct lack of knowledge about what cetaceans (whales and dolphins) reside in Victorian waters, making it especially difficult to assess potential food-web and ecosystems impacts. Recently, unexpected or rarely observed species in this region have been recorded, including pigmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps), rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis), shepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi) and striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba). This work will provide a comprehensive biodiversity assessment, greatly extending our knowledge of cetacean species in southern Australian waters, potentially identifying rare, unique or endangered species. This project is crucial for correct management and conservation, not only of cetacean species but also the ecosystem in which they reside.
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