Department of Parks adn Wildlife
Print this page

More whale sightings expected this year on the Pilbara coast

Whale in port of Dampier
Whale in port of Dampier Pilbara Ports Authority

More humpback whales will pass the Pilbara coast this year as larger numbers swim past our doorstep on their annual migration between the Antarctic and waters off the Kimberley coast.

Department of Parks and Wildlife Pilbara Region marine program coordinator Dr Rachael Marshall said numbers of whales off the West Australian coast were on the rise.

“The numbers of humpbacks have been slowly rising since commercial whaling for humpbacks ceased in 1963,” she said.

“It tells us that this threatened species is in recovery.”

Whales can be seen along the Pilbara coast between July and September. They travel up to 13,000km during what is believed to be one of the longest migrations of any animal on Earth.

“The animals make this journey so they can mate and give birth to calves in warmer waters, where the young have a better chance of survival,” Dr Marshall said.

“When the calves are strong enough, they return south with their mums to feeding grounds in Antarctic waters.”

Pilbara Ports Authority senior environment and heritage officer Dan Pedersen said it was common to see mother and calf pairs within the protected waters of the Dampier Archipelago and Port of Dampier during their southward journey.

“It is important to remember that whales need their 'personal space' during their short stopover in our port,” Mr Pederson said.

“Harassment by people onboard vessels can really stress them out and in some cases the mother might even abandon its calf.

“If whales feel threatened in the water, they could also cause accidents, which could harm both the whales and people onboard.”

Dr Marshall said it was important all skippers understand how to safely operate their vessels around whales.

“Protection rules apply under the Wildlife Conservation (Close Season for Marine Mammals) Notice 1998 for whale watching and we ask that people adhere to these rules when on the water,” she said.

“Within a distance of 300m from whales you are in their ‘contact zone’ and care must be taken not to disturb them. 

“You should never approach whales within a distance of 100m or attempt to touch or swim with them, for your own safety.

“If a whale moves toward your vessel, either place your motor in neutral or move slowly away from the animal, at a speed of less than five knots.”

Dr Marshall asked people to look out for whales stranded on the beach or entangled at sea. Contact the Parks and Wildlife Karratha office on 9182 2088, or the Pilbara Ports Authority Dampier Port Communications on 9159 6556 if you think the animal is a hazard to vessels in the Port.

Media contact: Parks and Wildlife Media 9219 9999