YV&C News Desk
Whale Watching In Australia
Will Migaloo Sizzle On A Japanese Hotplate?
Apr. 27, 2007 09:15 AM
The St Kitts and Nevis Declaration was passed by one vote. It calls for an end to the moratorium on commercial whaling and perpetuates the myth that whales eat too many fish.
While the win was purely symbolic for Japan, (in order to end the moratorium pro-whaling countries need to secure 75% of votes) it was a dark day for whales as it puts the IWC back into the hands of the whalers for the first time since the 1980s.
Japan, however lost key votes on such items as whether voting should be done by secret ballot and the attempted abolition of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Conservation countries won four out of the five key votes by narrow margins.
There was no decision made at this year’s meeting that did anything to stop Japan from expanding it’s ‘scientific whaling’. Japan presented it’s case for taking more whales including Humpbacks and no member nation of the IWC has any power to stop this whaling within the IWC. It’s clear that the IWC is powerless to stop countries using this loophole” ” says Mick McIntyre.
The two main species seen by whale watchers in Australia are humpback and southern rights. The humpbacks travel North, along the East and West coasts in June/July, returning in October/November. During their Northward migration to the warmer waters of Southern Queensland and Western Australia, the humpbacks travel quickly, breaching little. Heading South, the humpbacks travel slower, as they have calves, breaching more often.
Places like Narooma, Merimbula, Ulladulla and Eden, along the East Coast are wonderful places for whale watching during September/October. Whale watching boats are the best way to see whales, as they can quietly follow the humpbacks, sometimes a few kilometres offshore. Almost anywhere along the East Coast, you can enjoy superb whale watching. I recall watching two pods of humpbacks breaching off the Mimosa Rocks National Park.
Southern rights make for excellent whale watching, as they are usually very close to shore, often staying in the same area for several days. They tend to be much quieter than humpbacks, but I have seen a calf breach many times at Mollymook Beach. A pair of southern rights put on a spectacular show of belly flopping at Narrawallee Beach. Their black and white bellies, which look similar to orcas, keep’s you wondering if they’re killer whales.
If you’re approaching whales in boats please observe the whale watching guidelines. All vessels must stay at least 100 metres from a whale, and 200 metres if it’s with calf. The whale’s curiosity sometimes gets the better of them though, and they’ll swim right up to your boat and look inside.
Other whales seen on the East and West coasts are short, and long-finned pilot whales, minke whales, orcas and blue whales. The pilot whales are occasionally seen in Jervis Bay and offshore, while the orcas seem to follow the humpback migration. Orcas are sometimes seen at Montague Island in May/June, and in October/November.
Blue whales grow to 33 metres long and over 180 tons in weight. I remember seeing one in Antarctica. It was the most beautiful ‘swimming pool blue’ colour underwater, but when it surfaced, it’s colour was grey. Blue whales, are very slowly coming back from the brink of extinction!
So, with this little information, I hope I have encouraged you to go whale watching. I will be standing on the headlands watching for that magical whale spout, and do a few whale watching trips myself. We might even see Migaloo?
Here are some of the best whale watching sites
Cape Otway: (May to October) Bass Strait. It’s surrounding cliffs provide great viewing platforms for spotting right whales and dolphins.
Warnambool, Logans Beach: (June to September) One of the best places to see right whales. Other ‘best’sites include Gabo Island, Port Fairy and Wilsons Promontory.
INFO & TOURS; Warrnambool Visitors Information Centre; 1800 637 725
New South Wales...
Cape Byron: (June and July) (September/October) Australia’s most northerly point. Cape Byron is prime shore based whale watching. The Cape Byron Lighthouse makes for fine vantage point as do the surrounding cliffs.
Sydney: (June to July) (late September and October) Offers some excellent whale watching from places like North Head and South Head, at Sydney Harbour, Whale Beach ~ along Sydney’s Northern beaches, Cape Solander ~ at Botany Bay. Right whales have even played in front of the Open House and Harbour Bridge. The Royal National Park sea cliffs and Stanwell Tops sea cliffs make superb viewing platforms. Whale watching boats operate from Darling Harbour.
Narooma: (June/July, October/November) Narooma and Merimbula offer some of best humpback whale and dolphin watching in New South Wales. Several whale watching boats operate from Ulladulla, Narooma, Merimbula and Eden. Narooma is wonderful, as you can see Montague Island and it’s seal colony on the same tour. Be prepared to go elsewhere like Merimbula if the Narooma sea bar is closed, due to big seas. The cliffs off Jervis Bay make for fine whale watching especially the ‘Ruined Lighthouse’ which is only a short walk from the carpark. You can stay overnight in the Booderee National Park (camping) or the tourist villages of Huskisson and Vincentia. If you have your own yacht or powerboat, stay on Jervis Bay.
North West Cape: (June to October). Here you can see humpback whales on their annual migrations along the Ningaloo Reef, during June to August. Indo-Pacific dolphins can also be seen here. If you are planning a whale watching trip to Western Australia, roll up in July and board one of several whale watching/eco-tourism boats operating from Exmouth.
Monkey Mia, at Shark Bay: (June to October, for whales) Dolphins, dugongs and turtles, while humpback whales pass along the coast. For humpback whale whale watching along this part of the coast, you are probably best to board a whale watching/fishing boat out of Perth.
Esperance: (June to October) Located at the western end of the Archipelago of the Recherche, the Bay of Isles is a breeding and calving ground for right whales. The Great Ocean Drive, a 40 km loop, has good whale watching sites. There’s an island cruise each morning to Woody Island ~5 kms off Cape Le Grande.
May to October is the best time to see right whales in Western Australia, with August to November being the best time to see right whales off Albany. September to November is the best time to see humpback whales off Perth, while July to September is the best time to see humpbacks in northern Western Australia. Other best sites include Perth, Bunbury and Cape Naturaliste.
The massive sea cliffs make great vantage points for right whale watching at the Great Australian Bight. The Fleurieu Peninsula, 80 kilometres south of Adelaide, and the ‘Head of Bight’ near Nullarbor, are two best sites from June to August. Whale watchers can tour a whale watching centre and walkway at ‘Head of Bight’. In late June, 2006, there were 11 right whales and 3 calves seen at Bashams Beach.
Victor Harbour: Once a whaling station but now hosts the South Australian Whale Centre. Other prime sites are Kangaroo Island, Yorke Peninsula, Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay.
Queensland: (August/September) See humpback whales off Hervey Bay and Whitsunday Islands. Morton and Stradbroke Islands are becoming more popular due to easy access from Brisbane. www. frasercoastholidays.info
Tasmania: Storm Bay is an excellent place to see right whales, as is Coles Bay, located near the Freycinet National Park. The best time is September to November. Other top sites are Bicheno, Bruny Island and Maria Island.
Whale watching is now worth 276 million (2003) to the Australian economy, and was worth NZ$119 million (2004) for New Zealand.
(Total expenditure figures come from ‘The Growth of the Whale Watching Industry ~ IFAW reports, May 2004, May 2005)