Bumper whale season
THIS year’s whale season has seen high numbers of humpback whales visiting the Great Barrier Reef.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) species conservation expert Dr Mark Read said recent estimates of the humpback whale population showed long-term growth of about 11 per cent a year.
“They don’t come here for food. They come to mate, give birth and socialise so there’s a lot of frivolity and fun,” he said.
After spending the summer feeding in the Antarctic, humpback whales migrate to the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef, west coast of New Zealand and Pacific Islands for winter.
Nah Turnball, who worked on whale watch boats in Hervey Bay for seven years and now resides in the Whitsundays, said the region was a magnificent place to see humpbacks, pilot and minke whales in their natural habitat.
“It has been a very good breeding season as mothers nursing their calves seek protection in the warmer waters around the Whitsunday islands,” she said.
Ms Turnball said it was important to maintain distances from whales as it could be dangerous if a mother felt her calf was under threat.
Legally, vessels must stay at least 100 metres from whales in the Marine Park and 300 metres in the Whitsunday Whale Protection Area.
It is also a requirement to stay at least 300 metres away from a whale calf throughout the Marine Park.
Whales are generally sighted in the Whitsundays from June to September.
BUMPER YEAR: Humpback whales were a frequent sight on the Whitsunday waters during the migration season this year, with populations reported to be on the rise. This shot was taken by Whitsunday photographer Shirley Wodson during Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.