Parasites & Predators


The Humpback whales the frequent the waters of the Gold Coast and Brisbane have two types of parasites: one that attaches itself to their skin (such as barnacles) and one which burrow beneath their skin infesting their internal organs and cavities (flatworms and roundworms).

Barnacles do not feed off the Humpback whale but attaches itself to the whale to feed off microorganisms while it swims through the ocean.  It is thought that the average Humpback Whale will have approximately 400kg of barnacles on their body.  This is the equivalent to a human wearing a tee shirt.

When the whales migrate to the warmer waters of the Gold Coast and Brisbane, the majority its barnacles will have fallen off.

The Whales in Paradise footage from the Gold Coast Whale Watching cruise show that small dolphins and toothed whales like to bow-ride Humpbacks as they surface to breathe, however, the Humpbacks do not seen to enjoy their company as much.

The primary predators of the Humpback whales are sharks and Killer whales. It has been reported that Killer whales have attacked Humpback calves near both the feeding and breeding areas on the Gold Coast.

The Whales in Paradise Brisbane Whale Watching crew has reported an increase of Killer whales near the Gold Coast and Brisbane areas in recent years. They believe this is due to the increasing numbers of migrating whales to our beautiful coastline.

When whale watching on the Gold Coast, circular scars can be seen on many of the whales as a small shark known as the "cookie cutter" shark has attacked them.

You can check out a Humpback whales' primary weapon of protection on They use their powerful tail to pound the surface of the ocean, which looks like a giant karate chop.

The biggest threat to humpback whales are humans: illegal commercial whalers have killed more whales than any other natural predator. Whale watching on the Gold Coast has been seriously affected by this commercial hunting as it has been estimated that over 25,000 whales were slaughtered by the 1970s leaving behind a fewer than 100 humpback whales.  Since the Humpback whale was placed on the endangered species list their numbers have been consistently growing at a rate of about 10% per year and in 2011 it was estimated that there will be approximately 15,000 Humpback whale migrating past the Gold Coast each year