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/

Humpback Whale Research Expedition

We are extremely excited to share with you some awesome news!! The researchers from Humpback and Highrises have selected The Scuba Coach (Gold Coast Dive Adventures) to run their 3 day Whale Research Expeditions on our vessel ‘Blue Manta’. This is a true experience of a lifetime. Dates are already set with some more details to be confirmed. We also assist with administration including the booking process. Joining this trip will support the research as HHR are a not for profit organisation. Here is the booking form link for more information and in case you wish to jump on board early and get up close with the humpback whales. An outline of the trip is provided below.

The team around Dr. Olaf Meynecke from Humbpack & Highrises welcomes you to the experience of a lifetime. You are about to join world-class research and help to protect whales through our Healthy Whales research and monitoring program. Learn about humpback whales and other marine life on the east coast of Australia and visit the fastest growing region in Australia.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 3 days of research activity
  • 2 days of on-water survey and sampling activities
  • Limited to only 6 guests
  • Laboratory work and presentations at Griffith University
  • 2 nights accommodation included
  • Optional accommodation on Sunday night available
  • Team dinner on Saturday night

BACKGROUND
In the past more and more whales have stranded as a result of starvation or with injuries.
The underlying reasons and trends of this recently noticed issue is unknown. Through Dr. Olaf’s research over the past few years he was able to link certain environmental conditions such as increased water temperature to changes in humpback whale migration. Such shifts likely result in longer migration times
and consequently in deterred health.

HOW YOU WILL ASSIST
You will be able to assist Dr. Olaf to determine the causes such as shifts in response to ocean warming and find ways to determine whale health using new and exciting techniques. You will be helping with the collection of important behaviour data, monitoring data, health assessments and assist with mucous collection and remote aerial surveys. If you want to learn more about the complex life of a humpback whale, Dr. Olaf encourages you to read some of HHR publications and other material that describes humpback whale behaviour.

Dr. Olaf Meynecke will be your researcher on this expedition. After living and researching in south-east Queensland for the past 12 years he has gained a detailed understanding of the surrounding marine environment and he is happy to share his extensive knowledge with you. Dr. Olaf, his research assistant and your captain will ensure that you have an amazing and safe experience with some of the largest animals on earth whilst ensuring their future wellbeing. READ MORE