Humpbacks and Highrises Weekly Update – First calf of the season

Over the past few weeks we have had a period of pretty miserable weather and sea conditions which seemed to drag out forever! But finally, the tide turned and we were blessed with our typical warm, sunny Gold Coast winter days out on the water again.. And lucky for us the whales were ready to play!

A lot has happened in the whale world on the Gold Coast since our last update, and with some not so pleasant days, it was hard to get the researchers out on the water, however there was some exciting news as we saw our first baby calf of the season on the 30th of June! It’s always such a pleasure to see the calves appear here on the Gold Coast, and especially this early in the season!

Humpback Mother and Calf as seen on one of our tours at Whales in Paradise.

Humpback whales migrate to the northern end of Queensland, typically to the Great Barrier Reef to breed and give birth. However over the past few years we are starting to see a lot more calves being born here on the Gold Coast!

This raises a few questions marks around climate change and whether it is having an impact on where Humpbacks are giving birth and the possibility of any implications that may arise from this.

The newborn calf swimming beside its mother, as seen on our tour on the 30th of June, 2017. Source: pompomking_osaka (Instagram)

Our skippers and crew are working with a scholar from Humpbacks and High-Rises, Laura Torre, recording the exact GPS coordinates from start to finish, ocean depth, and photos of the calf, which will be used to help Laura (who also works on board Whales in Paradise) to document the presence of newborn calves in the Gold Coast Bay, and better understand the science behind it all. She will be presenting her findings at the Society of Marine Mammalogy conference in late October (according to Laura, it’s the biggest whale nerd conference IN THE WORLD!).

She has data from each whale season, starting from 2013 up until now. And all data collected gets compiled into her study and hopefully will produce some interesting findings in her next scientific journal publishing. It’s such a great feeling knowing that Whales in Paradise is not only showcasing some of the best whale watching experiences in the world, but also contributing to, and collaborating in new scientific findings!

Newborn calf playfully breaching right next to its mother. Source: David Williams Photography

Ok, back to the weekly whale update..

HHR surveyed 8 whales between the 19th - 30th of June.. Some days were rough but they managed to see some amazing behaviour such as breaching and heat runs! One whale even had multiple cookie cutter shark bites which are an indication of recent offshore visits by this particular whale.

Humpback whale with Cookie Cutter Shark bite marks along the side of its mouth and top of head. Source: Shark, Ray Research

On the 27th of June we encountered a restful individual that spent extended periods of time on the surface and wasn’t very active at all. This is quite common in whales as they need to rest after travelling thousands of kilometers, however quite rare to see by researchers. So it was safe to say that it was overly exciting for them, however maybe not that exciting for all the whale watchers who were keen to see the whale propel its 30 tonne body out of the water.. 😂

Finally, some not so pleasant news.. HHR has been recording a few too many close encounters between jetskis and whales. We understand that people are curious and want to see these magnificent creatures up close, but they must understand and abide by the rules that are set in place to protect the animals. Jetskis have a minimum distance of 300m between the watercraft and the whale. There are also guidelines and regulations which inform you how you can safely approach a whale. You can find all the relevant rules and information on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection page.


A jetski rider approaches a whale head on - well within 300m. Please inform yourself of the rules around approaching and watching whales. Source: Humpbacks and High-Rises Facebook page.

 

We hope you enjoyed the latest update from HHR, for more information on Humpbacks and High-Rises, or you would like to volunteer, head on over to their website.

https://www.humpbacksandhighrises.org/

 

And you can also help support their research by donating on their page..

https://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/whaleresearch