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Great whale migration begins

Humpback mother and calf
Humpback mother and calf D.Coughran

The annual humpback whale migration along the Western Australian coast is underway following an early and busy start to the season.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife recorded five whale carcasses between Albany and Coral Bay early in the season with the most recent one coming ashore in a remote area of the south-west near Bunbury this week. In an unusual event last month, the head of a sperm whale washed ashore at Perth’s Sorrento Beach.

Senior marine wildlife officer Doug Coughran said whale sightings off Perth would increase over the next few months as 30,000 humpback whales travelled from Antarctic waters to calving grounds in the Kimberley.

“Humpback and southern right whales are mostly commonly seen migrating along the coast. While humpbacks typically come close to shore due to illness, it is normal behaviour for southern right whales to swim close to breakers to rest and give birth in the shallows, especially on the south coast,” he said.

“Having these magnificent creatures at our doorstep is a boon for tourism but it is also a timely reminder for people to stick to some simple whale watching guidelines to ensure their personal safety while enjoying the spectacular sights of whales off our shores.

“Boats are advised to remain at a distance of 100m from a whale, and if a whale approaches a vessel, either place the motor in neutral or move slowly away.

“Swimmers who get up close on surfboards, kayaks and paddle boards are at greater risk, as a fully grown humpback whale can weigh up to 45,000kg and may react violently especially if accompanied by a calf, which can result in serious injury or death.”

Mr Coughran also encouraged people to be on the lookout for whales that may be entangled in ropes and fishing gear.

“Last year the department recorded 32 whale entanglements, which is an increase on the previous year,” he said.

“Parks and Wildlife continues to work collaboratively with the Department of Fisheries and fishing industry to investigate new measures to minimise entanglements along the coast.”

To report a sick, injured or entangled whale contact the department’s Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055. For more information about whales visit www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/management/marine/marine-wildlife/64-whales-and-dolphins

 

Media contact: Parks and Wildlife Media 9219 9999

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Twitter: @WAPARKSWILDLIFE

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 13 June 2014 10:24