Bumper whale sea­son

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

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.

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