Good humpback whale news from Australia

This video is called Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt.

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

Humpback whale numbers increasing as conservation practices take effect; tourism benefiting

By Bridget Brennan

22 June 2015

If you have ever wanted to watch the migration of humpback whales along Australia’s east coast, now is a great time to do it.

Whale watchers and marine officers say humpback numbers are up by between 8 and 10 per cent in 2015, sending thousands of additional humpback whales along the New South Wales coast.

From May to August, the humpbacks relocate from cold Antarctic waters to the warmer Queensland climate, where pregnant females will give birth.

Wildlife officer Geoff Ross, from New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, said better conservation practices have helped the humpback population bounce back in recent years.

“They’re definitely recovering, the science tells us that humpback whales are recovering by (an increase of) around 8 to 14 per cent per year.”

Mr Ross said that was “an amazing recovery for any population recovering from overharvesting”.

“This is the strength of your wildlife … whales were protected in 1967 so it’s taken that long for them to get over the precipice of extinction,” he said.

With an increase in humpback numbers, there were also more challenges for wildlife officers who work to keep the whales safe, Mr Ross said.

“We’re seeing increases in entanglement, we’re seeing increases in vessel strikes,” Mr Ross said.

Citizen scientists helping track whale numbers

Wayne Reynolds spends most of his winters rugged up in freezing conditions, waiting for humpbacks at a lookout at Cape Solander near Botany Bay in Sydney.

Winter is an exciting time for the volunteers, who spend months counting the humpbacks on their annual northern migration.

Since 1997, Mr Reynolds has been part of a team of volunteers at Cape Solander who count the whales, from dawn to dusk.

“Apart from dodging rain and attempting to find whales in the mist, we’re basically watching for the humpbacks that are migrating up,” he said.

“We’re looking for white caps, we’re looking for blows — which is the vapour exhaling from their lungs — and also we’re looking for any behaviours like breaching or tail slaps.

“We mark out how many whales we’ve seen, what distance they’re at, what time they’re passing our check point and any other behaviours as well.”

The volunteer whale census at Cape Solander is one of the only consistent humpback counts in Australia, and the information recorded will go to the International Whaling Commission.

Mr Reynolds estimated he had seen about 9,000 humpback whales over 18 years, and said he was a dedicated volunteer.

“I just like whales, [they’re] just a very big animal,” he said.

“You’ve got one of the largest animals making one of the longest migrations, just something different. They’re special.”
Tourism benefiting from the whale boom

Further north of Sydney, tourism operators had also seen humpback numbers increase, as well as more tourists eager to see the migration of humpbacks.

Matt Johnston captains boats for Moonshadow Cruises at Nelson Bay, about three hours north of Sydney.

He said South Koreans were especially keen to see humpback whales in the wild.

“When I first started 18 years ago, we had basically three months of whale watching — two months in winter, one month in summer — and we had probably about a 60 per cent success rate.”

“Now we start May and we end in late October, we do miss every now and then, but last year I had 100 per cent success rate.”

He said increased humpback breeding is linked to better conservation measures.

“It’s really good news, because it proves that since we stopped whaling and we started being a little bit more conscious of the environment, the numbers of the whales have increased,” he said.

Humpback facts

On average, humpback whales migrate around 5,000 kilometres, one of the longest migratory journeys of any mammal on the planet

Males and females make the journey north from the Antarctic, some heavily pregnant females give birth along the way

Humpback whales go north along Australia’s west coast, others choose to go east towards Queensland

Humpback whales will feed on krill in colder waters at the Antarctic

Adult humpbacks weigh up to 50 tonnes, measuring between 14-18 metres long

12 thoughts on “Good humpback whale news from Australia

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