The movements of individual humpback whales between winter breeding grounds of Oceania (South Pacific) were documented by individual identification photographs collected from 1999 to 2004. Photographs were collected with comparable effort across the six years in four primary island breeding grounds: New Caledonia, Tonga (Vava’u) the Cook Islands and French Polynesia (Mo’orea and Rurutu) and with a smaller effort in a few adjacent regions: Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Niue, and American Samoa. Interchange among wintering grounds was assessed using, regional catalogues of fluke photographs, representing 776 annual sightings of 659 individual whales from Oceania. Most resightings occurred within regions (n = 78) but 20 individuals were sighted in two (mostly adjacent) regions. Previously undocumented exchanges were highlighted within central Oceania and the west Pacific. No individual was sighted in more than two regions during this six-year period. The documented movement between regions was one-directional except for one individual sighted first in French Polynesia, then in American Samoa and then back in French Polynesia. Only one whale was resighted in more than one region during the same winter season. No directional trend was apparent and movement between regions did not seem to be sex specific. The movement of individuals across the longitudinal borders of the Areas V and VI, has important implications for the allocation of historical catches from the Antarctic.
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