Rare whales put on show

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

PAS­SEN­GERS and crew aboard the Port Dou­glas­based dive and snorkel ves­sel Sil­ver­sonic were treated to a rare sight­ing of sei whales on Tues­day.

The mother and baby sei whales, which re­main on the en­dan­gered species list, were spot­ted south of St Crispin Reef.

Sil­ver­sonic skip­per Shane Down said the adult was ap­prox­i­mately 18 me­tres long and the calf 12 me­tres.

“It ap­peared they were feed­ing and the mother was some 400 me­tres away while the young calf ap­proached within 100 me­tres the ves­sel,” he said.

“The young calf was swim­ming back and forth on the same track which in­di­cated it was feed­ing and there were a num­ber of tuna also in the area which eat sim­i­lar food sources.

“We are start­ing to see them ev­ery year now just af­ter New Year when the con­di­tions are calm.”

Quick­sil­ver marine bi­ol­o­gist and environment com­pli­ance man­ager Doug Baird said they are quiet in­quis­i­tive and the key to iden­ti­fy­ing a sei whale is through the dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture of a sin­gle ridge ex­tend­ing from the blow­holes to the tip of the up­per jaw.

Sil­ver­sonic had first recorded sight­ing one of these rare whales in Jan­uary 2008.

The sei (pro­nounced “say”) Whales are among the more elu­sive of the large whales and are rarely seen in­shore, pre­fer­ring the deeper oceans.

They are one of the fastest whales with bursts of speed up to 55km/h.

Grow­ing up to 20 me­tres and 30 tonnes, they are the third largest of the baleen whales, af­ter the blue whale and the fin whale.

It feeds by swim­ming at a rel­a­tively high speed, open­ing its jaw which causes it to en­gulf up to 18,000 gal­lons of water. It then closes its jaw and pushes the water back out its mouth through the baleen and trap­ping the prey.

They can con­sume up to two tonnes of food per day.

Photo by SIL­VER­SONIC SKIP­PER SHANE DOWN

Rare sight­ing: a sei whale off Port Dou­glas yes­ter­day

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