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Whales Ahoy!

Story: By Rebecca Fawcett-Smith
Jun 01, 2017
Whales Ahoy!
Slapping tails and raised pectoral fins will once again break the waters of Moreton Bay when the annual humpback whale migration reaches our coastline.

Every year between June and November, humpback whales migrate north along Australia’s east coast to mate and give birth. Along the humpback highway lies Moreton Bay Marine Park, a sheltered inlet where the humpbacks stop to rest, feed and play.

Kerry Lopez, Owner and Captain of Redcliffe’s Brisbane Whale Watching for the past 22 years, has noticed a new trend forming in recent years. Protected by Moreton Island, and with shallow waters that offer sanctuary from predators, Moreton Bay Marine Park is becoming an attractive calving area and nursery ground for the humpbacks.

“Historically they’ve always gone as far up as the Whitsundays to give birth and then they’ve come down into Hervey Bay [to nurse],” explains Kerry.

“Because water temperatures have increased over the last ten years, what we’re finding is that they’re staying around in Moreton Bay a lot longer. Pods can stay for two to three days.”

Only half a century ago, the east coast population of humpbacks was almost decimated by whaling. Now protected in Australian waters, the whales have made a spectacular comeback, with an estimated 18,000 visiting the Moreton Bay coastline last year.

“The amount of pods we were seeing last year was just extraordinary. Some days, everywhere you looked there were whales. We’re expecting 20,000 to 22,000 this year, so near on back to full recovery which is one of Australia’s hugest success stories.”

With only two commercial whale watching permit holders operating in Moreton Bay, spectators on board the vessels are guaranteed close encounters with these gentle giants of the deep.

“ When they come up close and lift their big four metre pectoral fin up and roll over and look at you, it’s just one of those things that you can’t explain. And seeing the mums and the babies play is fantastic.”