Blue whales 'shot' in the name of science samples.
Jun 25, 2013 — Shooting at blue whales from a small boat to obtain tissue samples was one of the tasks for Nelson-based marine scientist Carlos Olavarria in a breakthrough research voyage to the Ross Sea earlier this year.
"As sampler my work involved the collection of small pieces of skin for genetic analyses, using a dart propelled by a modified rifle, which floats in the surface of the water after hitting the whales and bouncing back."
It is estimated that up to 300,000 blue whales were killed during the commercial whaling area, with the population reduced to between a few hundred and a few thousand.
It remains on the critically endangered list.
The expedition, which ended in mid-March, obtained tissue samples from 23, and established photo ID for 57.