Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Listed migratory - Bonn
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].
Policy Statements and Guidelines Marine bioregional plan for the Temperate East Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012aa) [Admin Guideline].
Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales (Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW), 2007h) [Admin Guideline].
Information Sheets Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005e) [Information Sheet].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - Amendment to the List of Migratory Species (03/12/2002) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2002d) [Legislative Instrument].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory-Sei Whale Balaenoptera borealis (Woinarski, J. & R. Chatto, 2006) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
SA: Listed as Vulnerable (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): June 2011 list)
WA: Listed as Vulnerable (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
VIC: Listed as Data deficient (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Balaenoptera borealis [34]
Family Balaenopteridae:Cetacea:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Lesson, 1828
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Balaenoptera borealis

Common name: Sei Whale; Coalfish Whale; Pollack Whale; Rudophi's Rorqual

Other names: Balaenoptera borealis borealis Sei Whale Northern Hemisphere; Balaenoptera borealis schlegellii Sei Whale Southern Hemisphere (Rice 1998)

Sei Whales are dark grey or blue-grey on their back and sides. The undersides and sides may appear mottled with light coloured circular scars caused by various types of parasites, including scars from the bite of the 'cookie-cutter' shark (Isistius brasiliensis) (Aguilar 2002).

At sexual maturity, Sei Whales are approximately 12–16 m long, although they can reach lengths of 17.7 m in males and 21 m in females (Gambell 1985). Adult females are about 0.5–0.6 m longer than males, and Sei Whales of the Southern Hemisphere are larger than those of the Northern Hemisphere (Horwood 1987). The body of the Sei Whale is slim, streamlined and laterally compressed in the caudal (hind) region. A pronounced longitudinal ridge begins at the highest point of the head, close to the blowholes and extends to the tip of the rostrum. The dorsal fin is 25–60 cm tall, strongly falcate and set two-thirds of the way along the back (Leatherwood & Reeves 1983). The relative height of the dorsal fin is 3–4.6% of the body length. This is 1.5 times that of the Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) and four times that of the Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) (Gambell 1966). The fin is set at an angle of about 46° from the horizontal compared with 33° in Fin Whales (Gambell 1966).

Sounds of the Sei Whale consist of a series of short pulses with peak energy in the 1.5–3.5 kHz range (Richardson et al. 1995). During a recent Southern Ocean Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics (SO-GLOBEC) cruise, acoustic recordings accompanied by photographs and acoustic tracking of a group of Sei Whales feeding in the Western Antarctic Peninsula provided the first confirmed description of Sei Whale sounds. Vocalisations included a series of "growly" type calls, with tonal calls having abrupt shifts in a much lower dominant frequency (~200–400 Hz) (M. McDonald & D. Thiele 2004, pers. comm.)

Sei Whales have been infrequently recorded in Australian waters (Bannister et al. 1996). The similarity in appearance of Sei Whales and Bryde's Whales (Balaenoptera edeni) has resulted in confusion about distributional limits and frequency of occurrence, particularly in warmer waters (>20 °C) where Bryde's Whales are more common. Sei Whales were thought to be the most common whales reported by whalers off Albany, Western Australia while Sperm whaling, however, these may have been misidentified Bryde's Whales (Bannister et al. 1996). There are several reports of presumed Sei Whale sightings by fishermen around the shelf edge (50 km offshore) off the coast of NSW. A trawled carcass of a Sei Whale was reported within 300 km of the Northern Territory coast (Chatto & Warneke 2000). There is one record of a Sei Whale stranding for Tasmania in 1963 (R. Warneke 2004, pers. comm.) and another stranding of a Sei Whale in Tasmania in 1980 (McManus et al. 1984).

Sei Whales have been sighted 20–60 km offshore on the continental shelf in the Bonney Upwelling (off the coast of south-western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia) between December and April 2000–03, presumably feeding (P. Gill 2002, 2004, pers. comm.). Sei Whales were reported 200 nautical miles (nm) south-west of Port Lincoln in December 1995 and a concentration of Sei Whales was reported at the western end of Bass Strait (Kato et al. 1996). Surveys passing through Commonwealth waters during the 2001–02 and 2002–03 International Whaling Comission (IWC) Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research (SOWER) cruises found a small number of Sei Whales, including cows with calves, about 40 km south of Hobart, Tasmania (Ensor et al. 2002). Seven Sei Whales were seen apparently feeding about 65 km south of Tasmania in January 1993, and a Sei Whale was seen close inshore off Tasman Peninsula, south-east Tasmania, in June 1996 (P. Gill 2004, pers. comm.).

Sei Whales are also found in waters off Australia's Antarctic Territory. In the 1960s and 1970s, Sei Whales formed the highest percentage of whales sighted during Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) voyages (Parker 1978). However, very few Sei Whales were seen during Japanese Research Whaling Program in the Antarctic (JARPA) cruises in Australian Antarctic waters between 1989–90 and 1995–96 (Nishiwaki et al. 1998). The diversity of habitat for Sei Whales may be driven by dynamic physical and prey processes (D. Thiele 2004, pers. comm.).

There are no known mating or calving areas in Australian waters (Parker 1978).

The extent of occurrence and area of occupancy of Sei Whales in Australian waters cannot be calculated due to the rarity of sightings records.

Sei Whales are considered a cosmopolitan species, ranging from polar to tropical waters, but tend to be found more offshore than other species of large whales. They show well defined migratory movements between polar, temperate and tropical waters (Mackintosh 1965). Migratory movements are essentially north-south with little longitudinal dispersion. Sei Whales do not penetrate the polar waters as far as the Blue, Fin, Humpback and Minke Whales (Horwood 1987), although they have been observed very close to the Antarctic continent on SOWER cruises (D. Thiele 2004, pers. comm.).

Sei Whales move between Australian waters and Antarctic feeding areas; subantarctic feeding areas (e.g. Subtropical Front); and tropical and subtropical breeding areas. The proportion of the global population in Australian waters is unknown as there are no estimates for Sei Whales in Australian waters. It is likely that threats affecting the global population of Sei Whales would also affect Australian populations (Horwood 1987).

No systematic surveys have been undertaken with the purpose of surveying Sei Whales in Australian waters. Sei Whales have been sighted opportunistically during aerial surveys for Blue Whales in the Bonney upwelling (P.Gill 2004, pers.comm.)

Numerous sighting surveys have been conducted in Australian Antarctic waters under the Southern Ocean Cetacean Ecosystem Program (SOCEP), during which Sei Whales have been sighted but population estimates are not reliably calculated (Thiele et al. 2000).

Providing reliable estimates of Sei Whale population size in our region is not currently possible, as there are no dedicated surveys, and Sei Whales range widely over a very large area that is difficult to survey. The proportion of time that they spend at the surface varies considerably depending on their behaviour and local ecology (for example, whether they are travelling or foraging and the depth at which prey occurs), so that extrapolating from numbers sighted is an uncertain science.

There is insufficient information to describe the population structure of Sei Whales (Donovan 1991).

Populations of Sei Whales were severely depleted by commercial whalers; for example, in the north-east Pacific the population was estimated at 7260–12 260 in 1974, from a pre-exploitation population of 42 000 (Tillman 1977). A total of 141 553 Sei Whales were reported killed in the Southern Hemisphere between 1947–80 (Horwood 1987). However Soviet whaling grossly under-reported their catch, with 29 751 reported killed between 1947–72, while the true number taken was later revealed to be 53 366 (Yablokov 1994). Therefore a minimum estimate for the number of Sei Whales killed in the Southern Hemisphere for this period is 165 168.

There is insufficient information from any region to indicate trends in current population size.

Long-range movements of Sei Whales appear to be food related. Coastal fisheries in Durban, Natal, Peru, Brazil and Chile have found the local abundance of Sei Whales erratic, presumably associated with food availability (Horwood 1987).

Physical maturity takes place between 25–30 years. The life span of the Sei Whale, determined from annual growth layers in the earplug, can be up to 65 years (Gambell 1985).

The Sei Whale produces one offspring every 2–3 years. This low reproductive rate hinders rapid population recovery (Gambell 1985).

Known feeding areas in Australian waters lie within the Australian Whale Sanctuary. Antarctic feeding waters lie within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Sightings of Sei Whales in Victorian waters overlap with a number of state Marine Parks which are principally reserved and managed for their benthic habitat (Horwood 1987).

The Australian Antarctic waters are important feeding grounds for Sei Whales, as are temperate, cool waters (Horwood 1987). Sightings of Sei Whales feeding in the Bonney Upwelling area indicate that this area is potentially also an important feeding ground (Morrice et al. 2004). Breeding occurs in tropical and subtropical waters.
Sei Whales in the Bonney Upwelling are sometimes seen in the vicinity of the endangered Pygmy Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) and the vulnerable Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus), though these may be competitors, rather than associates (Gambell 1985).

Sei Whales reach sexual maturity between 6–8 years for males and 7.5–8.35 years for females. The average length at sexual maturity is 12.9–13.9 m for males and 13.8–14.4 m for females in the Southern Hemisphere (Horwood 1987). The largest reliably recorded length was of a 19.5 m female (Horwood 1987). The oldest Sei Whale recorded was 65 years old (Gambell 1985).

Natural mortality rates (instantaneous mortality) varied from between 0.063–0.070 for males and 0.084–0.088 for females in the Southern Hemisphere between 1957–1964. This period is prior to major exploitation and therefore likely to apply to natural stocks (Horwood 1987). Natural mortality post-exploitation is unknown.

The main breeding season is in winter, April to August in the Southern Hemisphere, November to March in the Northern Hemisphere, with gestation between 10.5–12.5 months in the Southern Hemisphere (Horwood 1987). Ovulation rate for Sei Whales in the Southern Hemisphere varies between 0.63–0.68 indicating a two year cycle and a true pregnancy rate of 0.41–0.43 (Horwood 1987; Lockyer 1974, 1984).

Sei Whales feed intensively between the Antarctic and subtropical convergences and mature animals may also feed in higher latitudes. Sei Whales feed on planktonic crustacea, in particular copepods and amphipods. Below the Antarctic convergence Sei Whales feed exclusively upon krill (Euphausia superba) though, as a proportion of their diet, krill makes up a much smaller component than the other great rorquals (Kawamura 1974; Nemoto 1970). There has been speculation that the existence of copepod and amphipods in their diet is a means of avoiding interspecific competition with other whales (Horwood 1987). However, there is no direct information on how such interactions may or may not affect the status of Sei Whale and other whales (Clapham & Brownell 1996).

The diving and feeding behaviour of Sei Whales is somewhat different to that of other rorqual whales. Sei Whales feed by swimming horizontally near the surface skimming pelagic crustaceans and will feed on concentrations of food that are thought inadequate for other rorquals. Side lunge feeding has been observed in Antarctica (IWC 2003). Sei Whales sink rather than dive and tend to be shallow swimmers with their heads seldom emerging and with no positive arching when diving (Horwood 1987).

There is insufficient data on Sei Whale migration, however, they have been sighted inshore in the proximity of the Bonney Upwelling, Victoria, along the continental shelf during the summer and autumn months (Gill 2002).

The movements and distributions of Sei Whales are unpredictable and not well documented. Information suggests that Sei Whales have the same general pattern of migration as most other baleen whales, although it is timed a little later and they do not go to such high latitudes (Gambell 1968). There is evidence from catch data of a pronounced segregation of the sexes during migration - generally the pregnant females arrive and depart from feeding areas earlier than males (Matthews 1938a).

In general, Sei Whales swim in small pods of three to five animals, with some segregation by age, sex and reproductive status. Pods in temperate waters are predominantly lactating females and juveniles; in high latitudes, adult animals (mostly male but also adult female) predominate (Horwood 1987).

Sei Whales may be confused with Bryde's Whales (Balaenoptera edeni). Bryde's Whales are usually found in waters >20 °C, whereas Sei Whales are not as common in these waters. Also, Bryde's Whales have three distinct head ridges running along the length of the rostrum while the Sei Whale only has a single central ridge (Horwood 1987).

Whale surveys are constrained by several important factors including weather (e.g. sea state, light conditions), area to be covered (large or small), aim of surveys (abundance estimation vs ecological studies), the activities of the whales themselves (e.g. travelling, resting, surface vs deep feeding), and the type of craft used.

Bonney Upwelling Surveys
In the Bonney Upwelling area, aerial surveys for Blue Whales have been conducted in all months of the year except September, however Sei Whales have only been sighted during summer and autumn (P. Gill 2004, pers. comm.). Surveys are flown during the middle of the day (0900 till 1500) in order to utilise light penetration, and in sea conditions of Beaufort 4 or less. Survey transects lie perpendicular to the coast and bathymetry, and are spaced 6 nm apart to maximise detection of whales. Surveys typically cover 600 to 1000 nm. Surveys have been conducted in 'closing mode', in which the aircraft breaks from the trackline to investigate species' identity, behaviour and presence of prey and other fauna. GPS record trackline and sighting waypoints. Survey data are later correlated with remote sensing imagery (SST, SeaWiFs) whenever possible, to interpret patterns of distribution (P. Gill 2004, pers. comm.).

Fine-scale vessel line transect surveys have used parallel cross-shelf transects 3 nm apart, with oceanographic sampling stations positioned along each transect at approximately 3 nm intervals. Using a dedicated recorder and two observers, cetacean and other marine wildlife observations are recorded in the GPS-linked Logger program. Acoustic backscatter is sampled almost continuously using a Simrad ES60 Echosounder with 120 kHz transducer. Sea temperature, conductivity and depth are sampled at oceanographic stations via a Seacat CTD Profiler (SBE 19plus). Plankton and whale faecal samples and photo-ID are collected opportunistically. Remote sensing images are downloaded for each survey day when available (P. Gill 2004, pers. comm.).

Passive acoustic monitoring may be a cost-effective way of obtaining preliminary information on distribution and local abundance year round. For example, acoustic monitoring using sonobuoys during the 2001–02 SOCEP voyage to Australian Antarctic waters successfully recorded Sei Whale calls (Thiele 2002). In addition, a moored acoustic recording package (ARP) was deployed off Mawson, Antarctica, and recorded Fin, Sei and other baleen whale calls (D. Thiele 2004, pers. comm.).

Identified threats outlined in the Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005–2010 (DEH 2005a) are as follows:

The resumption of commercial whaling and/or the expansion of scientific whaling
The impacts of commercial hunting on Sei Whales have been well documented. While currently banned under the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling, the potential for commercial whaling to recommence exists, and pressure to resume whaling may increase as Sei Whale populations recover.

An additional area of concern is the potential expansion of indirect commercial whaling as a subsidary of scientific whaling. The IWC Convention allows member states to issue special permits to kill whales for research purposes and then process these animals for sale. Since 1986, Japan and Iceland have issued special permits for several whale species as part of their scientific whaling research programs. The recent expansion of these programs in the Northern Hemisphere involve the killing of various great whales including Minke, Bryde's, Fin, Sperm and Sei Whales. In addition, since the implementation of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary in 1994, Japan has continued to harvest Minke Whales in this area under special permits.

Habitat degradation
Given the limited knowledge about the use of habitat by Sei Whales, it is difficult to determine the extent of the threat of habitat degradation to these species.

A range of anthropogenic activities have the potential to degrade habitat important to the survival of Sei Whales. These activities may degrade habitat by operating at times that coincide with the presence of whales, or they may occur when whales are absent, but degrade habitat suitability on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. These activities may include:

  • acoustic pollution (e.g. commercial and recreational vessel noise, and seismic survey activity)
  • entanglement (e.g. in marine debris, fishing and aquaculture equipment)
  • physical injury and death from ship strike
  • built structures that impact upon habitat availability and/or use (e.g. marinas, wharves, aquaculture installations, mining or drilling infrastructure)
  • changing water quality and pollution (e.g. runoff from land based agriculture, oil spills, outputs from aquaculture)
  • changes to water flow regimes causing extensive sedimentation or erosion or altered currents in near shore habitat (e.g. canals and dredging).

Habitat degradation may result in reduced occupancy and/or exclusion of individual whales from suitable habitat, compromised reproductive success and mortality. It is possible that impacts on a sufficient number of individual whales could lead to broader impacts at the population level (e.g. by reducing recruitment to such an extent that species recovery is impeded). This would be more likely to arise where activities that cause habitat degradation occurred intensively and/or cumulatively, or over a large portion of their range.

Sei Whales frequently skim feed at or near the surface which makes them vulnerable to entanglement in craypot lines and nets. Dead Sei Whales have been found entangled and drowned in floating or fixed fishing gear in coastal areas (Horwood 1987).

In recent years, seismic surveys have occurred in areas of krill abundance, where Sei Whales have occasionally been seen feeding. Acoustic pollution (from activities such as commercial and recreational vessel noise, and seismic survey activity) has been identified as an activity which has the potential to degrade habitat important to the survival of Fin Whales (Morrice et al. 2004). Habitat degradation may result in reduced occupancy and/or exclusion of individual whales from suitable habitat, compromised reproductive success, and mortality. It is possible that impacts on a sufficient number of individual whales could lead to broader impacts at the population level (DEH 2005a).

Potential threats outlined in the Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005–2010 (DEH 2005a) are as follows:

Climate and oceanographic change
Most of the world's leading scientists agree that global warming caused by human activity is occurring. The exact implications of these changes are unknown, but it is predicted that there will be reduced productivity of Southern Ocean ecosystems and unpredictable weather events caused by altered ocean water temperatures, changing ocean currents, rising sea levels and reductions in sea ice.

The potential impacts of climate and oceanographic change on Sei Whales may affect both habitat and food availability:

  • Whale migration, feeding, breeding, and calving site selection may be influenced by factors such as ocean currents and water temperature. Any changes in these factors could affect recovery by rendering currently used habitat areas unsuitable.
  • Changes to climate and oceanographic processes may also lead to decreased productivity and different patterns of prey distribution and availability. Such changes would certainly affect dependant predators such as Sei whales.

Prey depletion due to over harvesting
Sei Whales rely on krill as a main food source and require adequate supplies to accumulate energy reserves essential for migration and breeding. Depletion of krill through over-harvesting may be a potential future threat for Australian populations of these species. However, it should be noted that:

  • The krill fishery is managed through the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) on an ecosystem basis which takes into account the needs of predators such as whales.
  • While the fishery is likely to grow, fishing currently occurs well within the current precautionary limits.

Other threats
When migrating through the East Marine Region the Sei Whale may be affected by human interactions such as harassment, accidental collision, habitat loss or degradation, hunting, swimming programs, strandings and food stock reduction (DEW 2007a). Swimming, snorkelling or diving with whales has the potential to place both people and animals at risk (CRC Reef Research Center 2002, as cited in DEW 2007a).

The Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005–2010 (DEH 2005a) outlines the following threat abatement and recovery actions;

Implement a program to measure population abundance, trends and recovery for Australian populations of Sei Whales

  • Included within this activity will be the need to:
    • engage in the IWC southern ocean survey process to determine meaningful population estimates for Sei whales.
    • gather information on population structures and limits - e.g. through the use of genetic analysis.

Implement a program to better define the characteristics (spatial, temporal, physical) of calving, feeding, and migratory areas

  • Included within this activity will be the need to:
    • gather information on movements, migrations, and feeding grounds - e.g. through the use of satellite tracking, acoustic monitoring and other survey methods.
    • determine the values and characteristics of important migratory pathways and aggregation areas (calving, resting and feeding) particularly in areas where human use is likely to impact upon the species.

Prevent commercial whaling and/or the expansion of scientific whaling

  • Australia should maintain its position on promoting high levels of protection for Sei Whales in all relevant international agreements including the IWC, CITES, CMS, fisheries-related agreements and Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM).
  • Australia should continue to support a ban on directed take of Sei Whales.

Protect habitat important to the survival of the species

  • Ensure that in areas important to the survival of the species environmental assessment process and research activities are in place to determine the level of impact and threat of human activities, and implement management measures to ensure the ongoing recovery of Sei Whales. This should include, but not be limited to, the following actions:
    • Assess and manage acoustic disturbance - including the development and application of administrative guidelines under the EPBC Act such as the "Guidelines on the application of the EPBC Act to interactions between offshore Seismic operations and larger cetaceans".
    • Encourage best practice approaches that will reduce the likelihood of Sei Whales being entangled in marine debris, fishing and aquaculture equipment. If entanglements occur, manage the impact of individual entanglements where possible through the application of national standards for disentangling large cetaceans.
    • Ensure that habitat requirements of Sei Whales are considered in the establishment and management of marine conservation areas and reserves.
    • Manage the potential impacts of tourism - e.g. through the application of consistent Commonwealth and State tourism and whale watching regulations.
    • Assess and manage physical disturbance and development activities (such as ship-strike, aquaculture, pollution, recreational boating, and exploration and extraction industries) - including the application of environmental impact assessment and approvals and the development of industry guidelines and State/Commonwealth government regulations.
  • Implement education programs to inform marine users (e.g. whale watchers, fishermen, and shipping crews using important habitat) about best practice behaviours and regulations when interacting with whales.

Monitor and manage the potential impacts of prey depletion due to over harvesting

  • Improve knowledge of Sei Whale feeding ecology and the ecology of prey species in order to determine if or when prey depletion becomes a threat.
  • Australia should support regional ecosystem approaches to krill management through its involvement in CCAMLR and other fora.
Monitor climate and oceanographic change
  • Develop an understanding of the effects of climate and oceanographic change on Sei Whale populations to determine if species survival and recovery are being, or are likely to be affected.

Marine bioregional plans have been developed for four of Australia's marine regions - South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East. Marine Bioregional Plans will help improve the way decisions are made under the EPBC Act, particularly in relation to the protection of marine biodiversity and the sustainable use of our oceans and their resources by our marine-based industries. Marine Bioregional Plans improve our understanding of Australia's oceans by presenting a consolidated picture of the biophysical characteristics and diversity of marine life. They describe the marine environment and conservation values of each marine region, set out broad biodiversity objectives, identify regional priorities and outline strategies and actions to address these priorities. Click here for more information about marine bioregional plans.

The sei whale has been identified as a conservation value in the Temperate East (DSEWPaC 2012aa) Marine Region. The "species group report card - cetaceans" for the Temperate East (DSEWPaC 2012aa) Marine Region provides additional information.

The Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (DEH 2005a), the Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans (Bannister et al. 1996), the Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales (DEW 2007h), and the Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching (Department of the Environment and Heritage 2005e) provide brief biological overviews and management recommendations for the Sei Whale.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Commerical hunting of whales Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].
Energy Production and Mining:Mining and Quarrying:Habitat destruction, disturbance and/or modification due to mining activities Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:Competition, grazing, predation and/or habitat degradation by mammals The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans (Bannister, J.L., C.M. Kemper & R.M. Warneke, 1996) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Excess Energy:Seismic survey activities Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Excess Energy:noise Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Garbage and Solid Waste:Dumping of household and industrial waste The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans (Bannister, J.L., C.M. Kemper & R.M. Warneke, 1996) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Pollution:Garbage and Solid Waste:Ingestion and entanglement with marine debris Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Pollution:Deterioration of water and soil quality (contamination and pollution) Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Pollution:spillage The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans (Bannister, J.L., C.M. Kemper & R.M. Warneke, 1996) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Residential and Commercial Development:Tourism and Recreation Areas:Habitat modification, fragmentation and/or changed boat traffic caused by the construction and operation of marinas and wharves Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans (Bannister, J.L., C.M. Kemper & R.M. Warneke, 1996) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Transportation and Service Corridors:Shipping Lanes:Collision with shipping infrastructure Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010 (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005a) [Recovery Plan].

Aguilar, A. (2002). Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus). In: Perrin, W.F., B. Wursig & J.G.W. Thewissen, eds. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Page(s) 438. Orlando, Florida: Academic Press Inc.

Bannister, J.L., C.M. Kemper & R.M. Warneke (1996). The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans. [Online]. Canberra: Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Available from:

Chatto R. & R.M. Warneke (2000). Records of cetacean strandings in the Northern Territory of Australia. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory. 16:163-175.

Clapham, P. & R.L. Brownell Jr (1996). Potential for interspecific competition in baleen whales. Report of the International Whaling Commission. 46:361-367.

Department of the Environment and Heritage (2005e). Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching. [Online]. Available from:

Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2005a). Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan 2005 - 2010. [Online]. Department of the Environment and Heritage. Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia. Available from:

Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) (2007a). Draft East Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the East Marine Region.

Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) (2007h). Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales. [Online]. Available from:

Donovan, G.P. (1991). A review of IWC stock boundaries. Report of the International Whaling Commission. Special Issue. 13:39-68.

Ensor, P., K. Sekiguchi, J. Cotton, R. Hucke-Gaete, T. Kariya, H. Komiya, D. Ljungblad, H. Marite, P. Olson & S. Rankin (2002). 2001-2002 IWC-Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research (IWC-SOWER) Circumpolar Cruises, Area V. Available from the IWC secretariat. Cambridge, UK - unpublished.

Gambell, R. (1966). The dorsal fin of fin and Sei whales. Hvalfangst-Tid. 9:177-180.

Gambell, R. (1968). Seasonal Cycles and Reproduction in Sei Whales of the Southern Hemisphere. Discovery Reports. 35:31-134.

Gambell, R. (1985). Sei Whale Balaenoptera-Borealis. In: S.H. Ridgway and R. Harrison, eds. Handbook of Marine Mammals, Vol. 3: The Sirenians and Baleen Whales. Page(s) 326. Academic Press Inc, Orlando, Florida.

Gill, P. (2004). Personal Communication.

Gill, P.C. (2002). A blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) feeding ground in a southern Australian coastal upwelling zone. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management. 4:179-184.

Hoelzel, A.R. (1994). Genetics and ecology of whales and dolphins. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 25:377-399.

Horwood, J.W. (1987). Population Biology, ecelogy and management. The Sei Whale. Croom Helm, New York.

International Whaling Commission (IWC) (2003). IWC SO GLOBEC COLLABORATION. [Online]. [Accessed: 05-Jul-2005].

Kato, H. J. Bannister, C. Burton, D. Ljungblad, K. Matsuoka & H. Shimada (1996). Report on the Japan/IWC Blue Whale Cruise 1995-96 off the Southern Coast of Australia. Paper SC/48/SH9 presented to the IWC Scientific Committee. unpublished.

Kawamura, A. (1974). Food and feeding ecology of the southern Sei whale. Scientific Report of the Whales Research Institute. 26:25-144.

Leatherwood, S. & R.R. Reeves (1983). The Sierra Club Handbook of Whales and Dolphins. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

Lockyer, C. (1974). Investigation of the ear plug of the southern Sei whale, Balaenoptera borealis, as a valid means of determining age. Journal du Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer. 36:259-273.

Lockyer, C. (1984). Review of baleen whale (Mysticeti) reproduction and implications for management. Report to the International Whaling Commission (Special Issue 6). Page(s) 27-48.

Mackintosh, N.A. (1965). The stocks of whales. London: Fishing News (Books) Ltd.

Matthews, L.H. (1938a). The sei whale, Balaenoptera borealis. Discovery Reports. 17:183-209.

McDonald, M. & D.Thiele (2004). Personal Communication.

McManus, T.J., J.E. Wapstra, E.R. Guiler, B.L.Munday & D.L. Obendorf (1984). Cetacean Strandings in Tasmania from February 1978 to May 1983. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania. 118:117-135.

Morrice, M.G, P.C. Gill, J. Hughes & A.H. Levings (2004). Summary of aerial surveys conducted for the Santos Ltd EPP32 seismic survey, 2-13 December 2003. Report # WEG-SP 02/2004, Whale Ecology Group-Southern Ocean, Deakin University. unpublished.

Nemoto, T. (1970). Feeding patterns of baleen whales in the ocean. In: Steele, J.H., ed. Marine Food Chain. Edinburgh, UK: Oliver and Boyd Press.

Nishiwaki, S., K. Matsuoka, T. Hakamada & F. Kasamatsu (1998). Yearly changes in the distribution and abundance of large baleen whales in Areas IV and V in the Antarctic. Report to the International Whaling Commission. Unpublished.

Parker, D.A.A. (1978). Observations of Whales on Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) Voyages between Australia and Antarctica. Australian Wildlife Research. 5:25-36.

Rice, D.W. (1998). Marine mammals of the world. Systematics and distribution. Special publication number 4. Kansas: Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Richardson, W.J., C.R. Greene, Jr., C.I. Malme & D.H. Thomson (1995). Marine Mammals and Noise. San Diego: Academic Press.

Thiele, D. (2002). International Whaling Commission - Southern Ocean GLOBEC collaboration. Update from the Western Antarctic Peninsula. GLOBEC International Newsletter. 8(2):7-9.

Thiele, D. (2004). Personal Communication.

Thiele, D., E. Chester & P.C. Gill (2000). Cetacean distribution off Eastern Antarctica (80-150°E) during the austral summer of 1995/96. Deep Sea Research II. 47:2543-2572.

Tillman, M.F. (1977). Estimates of population size of the North Pacific Sei whale. Report of the International Whaling Commission (Special Issue 1). Page(s) 98-106.

Warneke, R. (2004). Personal Communication.

Yablokov, A.V. (1994). Validity of whaling data. Nature. 367:108.

EPBC Act email updates can be received via the Communities for Communities newsletter and the EPBC Act newsletter.

This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Balaenoptera borealis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Sun, 13 Jul 2014 03:54:33 +1000.