Satellite tagging of individual whales offers an effective way to complement population-level studies (genetic, photographic) that are occurring throughout the South-western Indian Ocean. Several tagging projects on humpback whales have been implemented in the region to better understand movement of individuals during the breeding season. During the workshop dedicated to “Humpback Whale Satellite Tagging in the South-Western Indian Ocean” (link to the report) (Reunion, 2014), researchers from the regions acknowledged the importance of sharing data and carrying out analyses on a regional scale, and decided to work collaboratively to coordinate future tagging projects (techniques, time and place of tagging) in order to optimize data collection and ensure that satellite tagging technique should be used to address research questions that are relevant and beneficial to the species conservation.
To date, satellite tracking data are available from humpback whales tagged in Mayotte and the Comoros (Fossette et al., 2014), Madagascar (Cerchio et al., 2018) and Reunion (Dulau et al., 2017). These tracks demonstrated for the first time movement from Madagascar up to the eastern African coast (Kenya, Ethiopia) during the same breeding season and from Reunion to Madagascar, and eastward along the Mascarene Plateau. Whales tracked on their southern migration showed a step-over around Crozet, half-way between the breeding ground and Antarctica feeding ground. Future satellite tracking projects are planned in 2021 in Kenya and Reunion.