Rare whales put on show
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.
Rare sighting: a sei whale off Port Douglas yesterday