NEFSC Protected Species Branch Staff

Peter Corkeron

Peter Corkeron

Current Activities

Peter Corkeron has led the large whale research program at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center since 2011. The primary focus of the large whale research program is using science to assess the status as well as the anthropogenic and ecological drivers affecting North Atlantic right whales. The program is primarily based on aerial and vessel-based surveys of large whales through the waters of the northeastern US EEZ. It also includes close collaboration with colleagues in the Passive Acoustics group in Protected Species Branch, and with external partners in the local research community, particularly at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the New England Aquarium.

The remit of the large whale research program also covers other large whales, particularly humpbacks. Peter's work also includes assessing the effects of noise on large whales, developing new technology to enhance our understanding of whales' behavior and ecology, and applying these technologies to improve conservation outcomes for whales. He occasionally finds time to have fun with R.

Peter serves on the editorial boards of Marine Ecology Progress Series and Tourism in Marine Environments. He is a member of the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Cetacean Specialist Group, a charter member of The Society for Marine Mammalogy, and a board member of the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium.




Peter's PhD was on the ecology of inshore dolphins in the waters off Brisbane, Queensland. Awarded by the University of Queensland in 1989, it was the first Australian PhD on the biology of living cetaceans. In 1988, Peter started another research program, on the behavior of humpback whales in Hervey Bay, Queensland, assessing the effects of the nascent whale-watching industry there. This science underpinned the creation of the world's first Marine Protected Area established to manage whale-watching, in 1989. At the same time, he maintained an active program on inshore dolphins in Moreton Bay, including research leading to the establishment of the interaction program with free-ranging dolphins at Tangalooma.

By 1990, he had moved to the University of Sydney, where, with Prof. Michael Bryden, he established what was then the premier cetacean research group in Australia. This included further work on inshore dolphin ecology and acoustics; humpback whale abundance estimation, behavior and movement ecology; and southern right whale population biology and behavior, including membership of the committees of PhD and MSc students. The right whale program that Peter started continues today as The Great Australian Bight Right Whale Study. Peter was also heavily involved in developing the original research program for the Australian Marine Mammal Research Centre, now part of the Marine Science Centre at Taronga Zoo. In early 1994, Peter survived a near-fatal assault.

While recovering from serious injuries, he moved to James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland, and worked on dugong abundance estimation. Building from his PhD work on humpback dolphins, Peter had identified two species of inshore tropical dolphins (now known as Australian humpback and Australian snubfin dolphins) as a particular conservation concern. While a James Cook Postdoctoral Fellow, he established a research program on the population biology, behavior and acoustics of these species, and restarted his dolphin research program in the waters off Brisbane. After his postdoc, he continued to develop his research group while a lecturer on contract, ran courses on coastal zone management, marine wildlife management and environmental science, and supervised PhD and MSc students. He also maintained his interests in the effects of tourism on marine wildlife, the evolutionary ecology of baleen whale ranging behavior, and even dabbled in work on fruit bats and wallabies.

In 2000, Peter moved to Tromsø, Norway to take up a position with the marine mammal group in the Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, which became the Tromsø lab of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research. There, he worked primarily on the population biology of phocid seals. Fieldwork took him to Svalbard, Jan Mayen and throughout northern Norway. In 2004, he quit his position in response a new policy introduced by the Norwegian government, that abused the concept of Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management to justify culling marine mammals.

Moving with his family to the USA, over the next few years Peter had adjunct appointments with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the New England Aquarium, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. His diverse body of work over this period included running dugong surveys in Qatar, fieldwork on baleen whales in Oman, and writing on the "marine mammals eat fish" issue for conservation groups. In 2010, he spoke before a US Congressional subcommittee on "Marine Mammals In Captivity: What Constitutes Meaningful Public Education?". In his spare time, he wonders if people read these blurbs to the end.

Selected Publications:

North Atlantic right whales, baleen whale conservation

Davis, GE, Baumgartner MF, Bonnell JM, Bell J, Berchok C, Thornton JB, Brault S, Buchanan G, Charif RA, Cholewiak D, Clark CW, Corkeron P, Delarue J, Dudzinski K, Hatch L, Hildebrand J, Hodge L, Klinck H, Kraus S, Martin B, Mellinger DK, Moors-Murphy H, Nieukirk S, Nowacek DP, Parks S, Read AJ, Rice AN, Risch D, Sirovic A, Soldevilla M, Stafford K, Stanistreet JE, Summers E, Todd S, Warde A, & Van Parijs SM. 2017. Long-term passive acoustic recordings track the changing distribution of North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) from 2004 to 2014. Scientific Reports, 7: 13460.

Pace III RM, Corkeron PJ, Kraus SD. State-space mark-recapture estimates reveal a recent decline in abundance of North Atlantic right whales. Ecol Evol. 2017;7:8730-8741.

Simmonds M and Corkeron P. 2016. A deal on whaling is a bad idea: a response to Gerber. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 14:181-182 doi:10.1002/fee.1263

Corkeron P, Rolland RM, Hunt KE and Kraus SD. A right whale pootree: classification trees of fecal hormones identify reproductive states in North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis). Conservation Physiology. 5.

van der Hoop J, Corkeron P and Moore M. 2016. Entanglement is a costly life history stage in large whales. Ecology & Evolution 7: 92-106. doi: 10.1002/ece3.2615

van der Hoop J, Corkeron P, Henry,AG, Knowlton,AR, and Moore M. 2016. Predicting lethal entanglements as a consequence of drag from fishing gear. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 115:91-104.

van der Hoop J, Corkeron P, Kenney J, Landry S, Morin D, Smith J, and Moore M 2016. Drag from fishing gear entangling North Atlantic right whales. Marine Mammal Science. 32: 619-642

Risch D, Corkeron PJ, Ellison WT, Van Parijs SM. 2014. Formal comment to Gong et al.: Ecosystem scale acoustic sensing reveals humpback whale behavior synchronous with herring spawning processes and re-evaluation finds no effect of sonar on humpback song occurrence in the Gulf of Maine in fall 2006. PLoS ONE 9(10): e109225. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109225

Rolland RM, Parks SE, Hunt KH, Castellotte M, Corkeron PJ, Nowacek DP, Wasser SK, and Kraus SD. 2012. Evidence that ship noise increases stress in right whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B. 279:2363-2368

Risch D, Corkeron P, Van Parijs S, and Ellison W. 2012. Changes in humpback whale song occurrence in response to an acoustic source 200 km away. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29741.

Mussoline SE, Risch D, Clark CW, Hatch LT, Weinrich MT, Wiley DN, Thompson MA, Corkeron PJ and Van Parijs SM. 2012. Seasonal and diel variation of the North Atlantic right whale up-call: implications for management and conservation in the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Endangered Species Research. 17:17-26

Corkeron PJ, Minton G, Collins T, Findlay K, Willson A, and Baldwin R. 2011. Spatial models of sparse data to inform cetacean conservation planning: an example from Oman. Endangered Species Research.15:39-52. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029741

Clark CW, Brown M, and Corkeron PJ. 2010. Visual and acoustic surveys for North Atlantic right whales, Eubalaena glacialis, in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, 2001-2005: management implications. Marine Mammal Science. 26:837-854

Marine mammals and Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management

Corkeron PJ. 2009. Marine mammals' influence on ecosystem processes affecting fisheries in the Barents Sea is trivial. Biology Letters. 5:204-206

Corkeron PJ. 2009. Reconsidering the science of scientific whaling. Marine Ecology Progress Series 375:305-309.

Corkeron PJ. 2007. Can fisheries problems be solved by culling marine mammals? In Marine Nature Conservation in Europe 2006. Proceedings of the Symposium, May 2006. Kraus, J.C., von Nordhein, H. and Bräger, S. (eds). Bundesamt für Naturschutz, Bonn, Germany.

Corkeron PJ. 2006. Opposing views of the "ecosystem approach" to fisheries management. Conservation Biology 20:617-619.

Corkeron PJ. 2004. Fishery management and culling. Science.306:1891.

Tourism impacts

Higham J, Lusseau D, Allen S, Corkeron PJ, and Bejder L. 2015. Managing whale-watching as a non-lethal consumptive activity. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 24:73-90

Corkeron PJ. 2014. Human attitudes and values: tradition and transformation and zombies. Pp 48-56 in Higham, J.E.S., Bejder, L. & Williams, R. (Eds). (2014). Whale-watching, sustainable tourism and ecological management. Cambridge University Press. 418pp. ISBN: 978-0-521-19597-3.

Corkeron PJ. 2006. How shall we watch whales? pp 161-170 in D.M. Lavigne (ed). Gaining Ground: In Pursuit of Ecological Sustainability. Proceedings of an International Forum. The International Fund for Animal Welfare, Guelph, Canada and the University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Scarpaci C, Nugegoda D, and Corkeron PJ. 2005. Tourists swimming with Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia: are tourists at risk? Tourism in Marine Environments 1:97-104.

Corkeron PJ. 2004. Whalewatching, iconography and marine conservation. Conservation Biology. 18:847-849.

Scarpaci C, Nugegoda D, and Corkeron PJ. 2003. Compliance with regulations by "swim-with-dolphins" operations in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia. Environmental Management. 31:342-347

Corkeron PJ. 1995. Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Hervey Bay. Behaviour and interactions with whale-watching vessels. Canadian Journal of Zoology 73:1290-1299.

Corkeron PJ, Brown MR, Slade RW, and Bryden M. 1994. Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae Cetacea: Balaenopteridae) in Hervey Bay. Wildlife Research 21(3):293-305.

Movement ecology of baleen whales

Valsecchi E, Corkeron PJ, Galli P, Sherwin W, and Bertorelle G. 2010. Genetic evidence for sex-specific migratory behaviour in in western South Pacific humpback whales. Marine Ecology Progress Series 398:275-286.

Valsecchi E, Hale PT, Corkeron P, and Amos W. 2002. Social structure in migrating humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae): a molecular analysis. Molecular Ecology 11: 507-518.

Connor RC and Corkeron PJ. 2001. Predation past and present: killer whales and baleen whale migration. Marine Mammal Science 17(2):436-439

Corkeron PJ and Connor RC. 1999. Why do baleen whales migrate? Marine Mammal Science. 15:1228-1245

Brown MR and Corkeron PJ. 1995. Pod characteristics of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, migrating off Point Lookout, Queensland. Behaviour 132:163-179.

Brown MR, Corkeron PJ, Hale PT, Schultz KW, and Bryden MM. 1995. Evidence for a sex-segregated migration in humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B. 259:229-234

Ecology, behavior, conservation biology of inshore dolphins

Parra GJ, Corkeron PJ, and Arnold P. 2011. Grouping and fission-fusion dynamics of Australian snubfin and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. Animal Behaviour. 82:1423-1433

Parra GJ, Corkeron PJ, and Marsh H. 2006. Population sizes, site fidelity and residence patterns of Australian snubfin and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins: implications for conservation. Biological Conservation 129:167-180.

Parra GJ, Schick R, and Corkeron PJ. 2006. Spatial distribution and environmental correlates of Australian snubfin and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. Ecography 29:1-11.

Corkeron PJ and Martin AR. 2004. Ranging and diving behaviour of two "offshore" bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops sp., off eastern Australia. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK. 84:465-468.

Parra GJ, Corkeron PJ, and Marsh H. 2004. The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, Sousa chinensis (Osbeck, 1765) in Australian waters: a summary of current knowledge. Aquatic Mammals 30:197-206.

Chilvers BL, Corkeron PJ, and Puotinin ML. 2003. The influence of trawling on the behaviour and spatial distribution of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops aduncus, in Moreton Bay, Australia. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 81:1947-1955.

Chilvers BL and Corkeron PJ. 2003. Abundance of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins Tursiops aduncus, off Point Lookout, Australia. Marine Mammal Science. 19:85-95

Van Parijs SM, Smith J, and Corkeron PJ. 2002. Using calls to estimate the abundance of inshore dolphins; a case study with Pacific humpback dolphins, Sousa chinensis. Journal of Applied Ecology. 39:853-864.

Chilvers BL and Corkeron PJ. 2002. Association patterns of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops aduncus, off Point Lookout, Queensland, Australia. Canadian Journal of Zoology 80:973-979

Parra GJ, Azuma C, Preen AR, Corkeron PJ, and Marsh H. 2002 Distribution and status of Irrawaddy dolphins, Orcaella brevirostris, in Australian waters. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 10:141-154.

Chilvers BL and Corkeron PJ. 2001. Trawling and bottlenose dolphins' social structure. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. 268:1901-1906.

Van Parijs S, Parra G, and Corkeron PJ. 2000. Sounds produced by Australian Irrawaddy dolphins, Orcaella brevirostris. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 108:1938-1940.

Corkeron PJ. 1997. Bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, in southeast Queensland waters: social structure and conservation biology. pp 1-10 in Hindell M. and Kemper C. (eds) Marine mammal research in the southern hemisphere. Volume 1. Status, ecology and medicine. Surrey Beatty and Sons. Chipping Norton. Australia

Corkeron PJ, Leh C, Andau P, Wong M, and Leatherwood S. 1995. Cetaceans of Northern Borneo. Brunei Museum Journal. 10:55-64.

Schultz KW and Corkeron PJ. 1994. Interspecific differences in whistles produced by inshore dolphins in Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 72:1061-1068.

Corkeron PJ. 1990. Aspects of the behavioural ecology of inshore dolphins, Tursiops truncatus and Sousa chinensis in Moreton Bay, Australia. pp 285-294 in Leatherwood S. and Reeves R. R. (eds). "The bottlenose dolphin." Academic Press. San Diego. USA

Corkeron PJ, Bryden MM, and Hedstrom K. 1990. Feeding by bottlenose dolphins in association with trawling operations in Moreton Bay, Australia. pp 329-336 in Leatherwood S. and Reeves R. R. (eds). "The bottlenose dolphin." Academic Press. San Diego. USA

Green A and Corkeron PJ. 1991. An attempt to establish a dolphin feeding station at Moreton Island, Queensland. Aquatic Mammals. 17:125-129.

Corkeron PJ, Morris RJ, and Bryden MM. 1987. A note on the healing of large wounds in bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus. Aquatic Mammals 13:96-98.

Corkeron PJ, Morris RJ, and Bryden MM. 1987. Interactions between bottlenose dolphins and sharks in Moreton Bay, Queensland. Aquatic Mammals 13(6):111-114.


Leaper R, Lavigne DM, Corkeron P, and Johnston DW. 2010. Towards a precautionary approach to managing Canada's commercial harp seal hunt. ICES Journal of Marine Science 67:316-320.

Van Opzeeland IC, Corkeron PJ, Risch D, Stenson G, and Van Parijs SM. 2009. Geographic variation in vocalizations of pups and mother-pup behaviour of harp seals Pagophilus groenlandicus. Aquatic Biology 6:109-120.

Risch D, Clark CW, Corkeron PJ, Elepfandt A, Kovacs KM, Lydersen C, Stirling I, and Van Parijs SM. 2007. Vocalizations of male bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) classification and geographical variation. Animal Behaviour. 73:747-762.

Haug T, Stenson GB, Corkeron PJ, and Nilssen KT. 2006. Estimation of harp seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) pup production in the North Atlantic completed: results from surveys in the Greenland Sea in 2002. ICES Journal of Marine Science 63:95-104.

Van Parijs SM, Corkeron PJ, Harvey J, Hayes S, Mellinger D, Rouget P, Thompson PM, Wahlberg M, and Kovacs KM. 2003. Patterns in vocalizations of male harbor seals. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 113:3403-3410.

Other Species

Hodgson AJ, Marsh H, and Corkeron PJ. 2004. Provisioning by tourists affects the behaviour but not the body composition of Mareeba rock wallabies (Petrogale mareeba). Wildlife Research 31: 451-456.

Marsh H, Eros C, Corkeron PJ, and Breen B. 1999. A conservation strategy for dugongs: implications of Australian research. Marine and Freshwater Research 50:979-990.
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