Humpback Whales on the Gold Coast

Perennially between the months of April and November, the east coast of Australia including our beautiful Gold Coast froths with tail lobbing and breaching humpback whales that migrate from the feeding grounds in the southern ocean to the warmer waters of tropical Australia where they breed and calf. This annual migration can see individual whales covering more than 6000 miles, passing the Eastern Australian towns on the New South Wales and Queensland coasts such as Sydney, Narooma, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast.

It is believed that the majority of humpback whales migrate north between June and August, and return to their feeding grounds in the south during the later months of September to November. Juvenile males are the first individuals to make their migrations, followed by the females and calves. It is assumed, while not known, that breeding takes place in the middle stages of the migrations, before they reach the tropics. The lagoons of the Great Barrier Reef are thought to be an area where the humpback whales breed and birth, yet there is a lack of evidence to determine that fact for sure.

Recent studies have estimated between 25,000 and 30,000 humpback individuals are part of the entire east coast migratory population, and that in turn populations are growing by 10-11% every year. It is understood through tireless research that numbers were back to what they were before the mass hunting of whales in the Australian east coast, a barbaric act that ended in 1963. It was calculated that during the height of the whaling years one whaling station near Tangalooma took 600 whales in a single year.

While soaring numbers of humpback whales is a promising sign for the relationship between man and leviathan, there are potential issues related to the boom. Primarily, is there enough krill and food sources throughout the southern oceans to support the whales during the migration, and furthermore with an increased population of humans, the risk of ship collision and shark net entanglement is another growing risk to the whales.

Fortunately the Australian government ‘department of environment and energy’ have passed a myriad of laws for vessels when approaching whale species. For example crafts must stay at least 100 metres away from whale, and never touch or feed them at any time. Furthermore injury and stranding hotlines have been established across much of eastern Australia to focus on the protection of these creatures.

Whale watching companies from the east coast, have seen a boom in industry over the last decade, with a myriad of people of all ages wishing to see the whales that frequent their coast. The Gold Coast is a perennial favourite for whale lovers, and when the whale season is open, there is nowhere better to encounter the majestic nature of the humpback as they move north to their breeding grounds.

The Gold Coast is also home a world class research group Humpback and High-rises, led by Dr. Olaf Meynecke.

If you would like to get involved and find out more about these majestic animals, you can join one of our Gold Coast Whale Watching and Marine Research Adventures ex Runaway Bay Marina or sign up for one of Dr. Olaf’s 3 day research and rescue expeditions.

The whales are jumping as the giant dredge departs

There is no denying that the Gold Coast beach replenishment project has kept humpback whales away from shore. It has been a challenging whale season for all commercial operators and research groups that had to burn the extra fuel in order to get encounters with the majestic giants. We have listened to the dredging noise via underwater microphones, kilometres away from the dredging work hence, we are not surprised that whales steered clear of the Gold Coast shoreline. The dredging works are now completed and it seems whales are now seen immediately close to shore, dangerously close to the shark nets and drum lines.

The whale season is not over yet and we are heading out again with the team of Humpback and High-rises for an half-day survey trip. This unique morning boat trip will give you a personalised experience. Since we are part of a research program, we have a permit to approach whales as close as 50m. We will obviously only do this without compromising the safety and free movement of the animal. Since our vessel is small, chances are whales will come up close to check us out.

You will help the team of Dr. Olaf by collecting survey data including but not limited to recording numbers within individual pods, dive times, surface behaviour, collecting skin and mucus samples and obviously taking lots of close up photographs. Furthermore, your participation will help to fund Dr. Olaf’s work. More information about the research can be found on HHR website: https://www.humpbacksandhighrises.org/

Gold Coast Sea Slug Census

Gold Coast Dive Adventures and The Scuba Coach are proud supporters and participants in the annual Gold Coast Sea Slug Census Weekend. We have visited 4 different dive sites over the last weekend including Palm Beach Reef, Greta’s Reef, Wreck of the Scottish Prince and Wave Break Island. If you ever wondered what the census is about, please see the extract of an ABC news article below.

More than 80 citizen scientists have taken part in the second annual Gold Coast Sea Slug Census. The aim is to find, identify and record the variety of brightly-coloured creatures in the region from South Stradbroke Island to Cook Island, just south of the border, in 48 hours. Census organiser and Southern Cross University professor Stephen Smith said the short-lived gastropods were a good indicator of environmental changes.

See the link to the full article here: http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-25/sea-slug-census-points-to-southerly-movement-from-queensland/8979248?pfmredir=sm

Participating is rewarding as many local dive business donate prices such as gift vouchers, equipment items and dive trips.

If you want to find out more about the annual Sea Slug Census on the Gold Coast and how you can participate next year, join Deb Astons Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1726275340952205/?ref=group_header

Bull Sharks in the Gold Coast Seaway – Should I be worried?

This picture has been taken in the Gold Coast Seaway by Ian Banks from Diving the Gold Coast. It reminded us that approximately 20 surfers in average paddle across the Gold Coast Seaway each day right over the spot where this picture was taken. It’s a common spot where bull sharks happily hang out. We are not aware of any recorded shark attack in this area over the last decades which gets to show that the presence of sharks does not necessarily mean danger to humans. It’s a big ocean and sharks are there all the time, busy with all the things that sharks usually do all day long. Hunting for humans is not one these things. Shark attacks are accidents, often due to mistaken identity and very very rare in the scheme of things.

We will not get into the detail surrounding the shark net debate, however it is one more opportunity to express that shark nets have no purpose and are a psychological measure to take away the fear from tourist that our media has created.

(Photo Credit: Ian Banks – Diving the Gold Coast)