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Seaway important resting area for female humpbacks with calves: Dr Olaf Meynecke

October 7, 2013

Interview by Mic Smith

Keep up to date on the Gold Coast humpbacks with Humpbacks and Highrises‘ Dr Olaf Meynecke

MSG: How many whales enter the seaway during their southbound migration?
Olaf Meynecke. Photo used with permission.

Olaf Meynecke. Photo used with permission.

Olaf: We don’t have any fixed numbers at the moment as there has never been a proper survey and we are now the first to do this. Together with the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management we (HHR) have set up a team to undertake surveys using theodolites and binoculars from September to October. We estimate that about 15-20 whales per month enter the seaway or are at the seaway entrance within a few hundred meters.

MSG: How do you know?
Dr Olaf Meynecke: So far we only have anecdotal records from divers, walkers and the public in general. Some records are from our researchers onboard the whale watch vessels.
MSG: Females, males, calves?
Dr Olaf Meynecke: Mainly mothers and calves seem to enter the Seaway. So the time of year when we have most records is between August and October. We believe that north of the Seaway is a resting hot spot for mothers with calves and it appears that often the animals swim south in the early mornings passing or entering the seaway then.
MSG:  Are there many of these places on the east coast? Do all the whales coming past rest there?
Dr Olaf Meynecke: There are not many resting spots along the east coast of Australia. A resting spot needs to be easily accessible for the whales, have shallow waters and sandy bottoms to make it attractive. The main resting spots are around the Whitsundays (also breeding), Hervey Bay, Gold Coast bay, Jervis Bay. Some smaller bays may function as a resting area as well but not for a large number of whales. Only a proportion of the whales are using the resting areas and we don’t know when and why but there is some evidence that the same whales return to the same areas and it is being carried on through generations.
MSG: How important is it that they rest? How long have they used this place for resting?
Dr Olaf Meynecke: In particular mothers with calves need to rest. The calves can’t swim for long times and so they rest in calm waters. Resting would be in the range of a day to a few days. We are currently compiling a fluke database for the Gold Coast to see who is staying for how many days.
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