Financial support for research into the migratory patterns of whales through Geographe Bay will be spearheaded by a new research company based solely in the region. Geographe Marine Research, launched last week, aims to attract corporate sponsorship and donations to support targeted research projects. Volunteers and local researchers associated with the CSIRO-approved research institute have been studying patterns of the critically endangered blue and southern right whales since 2004. GMR director Chris Burton said the research organisation had gone from strength to strength since he started the self-funded research project 17 years ago. “(This funding venture) is a really important thing because it means we don’t have to rely on any other funding,” he said. “We want to continue the long-term research and place us on a sound basis both financially and organisationally. “We envision GMR growing steadily ... so the information provided in our peer-reviewed literature will assist the management of both State and Federal action conservation measures for marine management.” More than 20,000 hours have been spent at Point Picquet since 2004 collecting and analysing observation data, together with photo and video identification. Through their work, the group have identified four baleen whale species passing through the regional annually: blue, southern right, humpback and minke whales, during their southern migration season. The research has also shown whale numbers along the South West are finally recovering since whale hunting days, with humpback numbers increasing from 700 in 2005 to 3500 last year. Mr Burton said while the trends were positive, there were still many unanswered questions around the migratory patterns of whales and the impact of climate change on population, movement and food.