Dramatic increase good news for local whale watchers
After hitting a low of 300 individuals 30 years, humpback whale numbers off Australia’s east coast are soaring. Researchers from Australia’s Organization for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans (ORRCA) are hoping for an increase in whale migration numbers this year. Census results from the past 21 years indicate an annual 10-15 per cent increase in whale migration numbers.
According to ORRCA Vice President Jools Farrell, early indicators suggesting a similar trend for 2020. "The fact they started migrating earlier is a good start," said Ms Farrell. "Last year numbers were up by 486 from 2018. Numbers are predicted to reach an excess of 35,000 this year."
The increase is a boon for local whale watchers. One NSW South Coast whale watching company has been keeping a watch on numbers for more than 30 years. According to Jet Jones from Dolphin Watch Cruises in Jervis Bay, the population has spiked dramatically in recent years and this year's migration has been spectacular.
"Our jet boat is 18 metres long with a 65-person capacity, and when we see the 'Mumma' humpback whales come into Jervis Bay for shelter, those things are bigger, longer and heavier than our boat," Jones said. "The humpback numbers are an indication on the health of the ocean and the health of the environment in general so the fact we are seeing more every year is good news. We see them out there every day, but we still get the same buzz we did the first time we saw them," he added
Humpback whale numbers have steadily increased since the end of commercial whaling. Whaling stations established in Australia and New Zealand during the 1830s slaughtered more than 40,000 humpbacks on their migration. Whaling ceased on humpback whales in 1963 which were granted worldwide protection 1965.