Whale watching season underway


A whale breaching at Logans beach in 2010. The photo has been provided by M.Watson, DSE, 2010

The 2011 season for Southern Right whales has commenced and the majestic creatures can now be spotted gliding along the southern coastline.

Southern Right whales migrate from sub-antarctic waters, where they feed during the summer months, to the southern coastline of Australia to breed during winter.

Senior Natural Resource Management Officer Mandy Watson from the Department Sustainability and Environment (DSE) monitors the whales.

“They come here to give birth and raise their calves, presumably because it’s warmer and there is more shelter for them.” said Ms Watson.

“They also come into the shallower waters to protect their calves from predators such as Killer whales and sharks.”

There have been two reported sightings so far this season, the first on May 10 at Logans Beach in Warrnambool and the second in Ocean Grove on May 16.

Simon Branigan Victorian National Parks Association Marine and Coastal Project Officer, said there would be many opportunities to view the whales from the Surf Coast as well.

“Driving along the Great Ocean Road is a perfect way to see whales in their natural habitat, a very special experience.

Split Point Lookout in Aireys Inlet, built by the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee in 2009, features a special cliff-edge design, allowing for an unhindered view of the passing whales.

The platform is just one example of a number of spectacular viewing locations in the region.

“There are a number of lookouts and viewing platforms for drivers to safely pull over and observe the whales,” said Mr. Branigan.

Whale watchers can identify Southern Right Whales by their distinguishing features.

Unlike other whale species they don’t have a dorsal fin; they have short square pectoral fins and a distinctive v-shaped blow rather than a single plume.

They are large fat whales with a rounded heads, strongly arched mouth lines and can grow up to 18 metres long.

The whales are black in colour with some irregular white patches on their underside and white growths called callosities on their heads, which people often mistake for barnacles.

Sightings of Southern Right whales can be reported to mandy.watson@dse.vic.gov.au or by calling (03) 5561 9961 or 0408 302 421.  

This story was written by the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee and published in the Surf Coast Time’s Going Green Column.

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