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Where's Migaloo?

Posted on Thursday, July 01, 2010

We spoke to Carol Hunt of Cooly Dive and Aquatic Blue Charters this week about this years Whale Watching season! This is what she had to say!

Q. We hear that there has been an enormous amount of whales passing along the coastline in their annual migration north, is this year any different from previous years?

A. We are noticing that the whales are coming through in large groups, larger than previous years, we started to notice this last year, big groups of pods and then a few kilometres of nothing and then the next group comes through.  Last Monday we came across around 80 whales, this is the most whales we have ever seen in one day over the last 10 years.  The day before only a few whales, so the group thing above is quite evident here.

Q. So everyone is waiting with baited breath to hear of Migaloo’s return! Is it possible that Migaloo has slipped by without being noticed already? And if it’s not possible, what could be taking him so long to arrive from Port Stephens where he was last sighted?

A.  There were several sightings of a white whale along the coast from Crowdy Head, south of Port Macquarie, there is only one Migaloo and the general public will assume that it is Migaloo if they see a white whale, but there could be as many as 3 white ones now travelling up the east coast but the other two have black markings on them and are definitely not Migaloo.  There was a confirmed sighting of Migaloo on Monday morning the 28th June off Byron Bay by NPWS, he seemed this year to be very slow in his journey and it is assumed that he found his mate early in his travels and was not heading north as quick as previous years because he had already found a mate, this would explain why he was going very slow and doing a loop.  The last confirmed sighting was Byron Bay and nothing since, I tend to think now we will hear of him arriving up north sometime over the next week.  Migaloo could easily slip by, the ocean is massive and he tends to go wide a lot of the time, at one stage, he was not seen at all for 5 years.

Q. Acting State Climate Change Minister Annastasia Palaszczuk this morning activated 'special interest' status on Migaloo, banning boats from getting too close as his arrival into Queensland looms. How do you feel about these restrictions? Are they a good move for the government to introduce and why?

A. Migaloo is a ‘special interest whale’ and will always attract the 500 meter exclusion zone, this stops the media, general public & whale watching boats from harassing him.  As he attracts so much attention he needs to be protected at all times.  I am in favour of the restrictions.  If the Government were to leave the zone at 100 meters, people would get far too close and this would harass him, he would not be able to swim on his migration in peace, his migration would be interrupted by interfering spectators up and down the coast everywhere.

Q. Cooly Dive/Aquatic Blue Charters have been operating for many years in the area, what’s your opinion on the growth of the Humpback whale population? Has there been a growing number of whales passing by each year?

A. The growth/increase in the humpback population has not been significant over the past few years, there has definitely has been an increase, but not several thousand overnight, these whales have always been going past in reasonable numbers, it is since whale watching operators have allowed the public to view them and draw attention to the humpbacks that we have noticed more whales, because there is more awareness, this awareness is fantastic for the whales, the more we know about the whales the more we will save them from slaughter.  A noticeable difference in the way they are migrating – is this due to climate change?  I seem to think it is because they are now forming family groups and leaving the Antarctic in these groups, these groups are spread over several kilometres.

Q. What is your favourite part of the whale watching season?

A. I love introducing the whales to the people, 95% of our clients have never seen a whale from a boat before and the joy that we give these people is awesome – they walk away from our boat with a special bond with the humpbacks, an understanding and they love their experience.  I love the way the whales come to the boat and look at us, I love the way they breach, I just love everything about these whales, people cannot believe that they can see this off Coolangatta, we have had people, and there has been many, on our boat who tell us that we have the best whale watching they have ever seen, some going to Harvey Bay, the Antarctic and up and down the coast and we are the best.

Q. What sticks in your mind as the most amazing moment you have experienced while running whale watching charters?

A. The fact that these whales know that you are watching them, they can hear you, see you and will interact with you, they come to the boat and play with the boat going from one side to the other, blowing bubbles and wetting us, splashing us – they are warm blooded mammals and interact with humans.  My favourite moment – when a group of 3 whales played with the boat and followed me around the boat for one hour, came to the back of the boat, I stretched out to them, they came so close and spy hopped several times, one rolled on it’s side and waved at us behind the boat as I waved back to him – best day ever – August is the best month for this type of encounter.

Q. What is the best time of the season to watch the whales? Is it when they move north or on their return south?

A. Any time from late June to mid October – the whales are everywhere.  There are three specific times:  The northern migration – whales are happy to be in the warm water, mating season is in the air, loads of breaching and chasing, last years calves breaching.  Mid season – August – whales are relaxed and the water here is calm – the whales come to the boat heaps in August – Southern Migration – the babies come past and they are fantastic – some of the best whale watching is right here – this is the best we have ever encountered here on the gold coast. We thank Carol and Tony Hunt for their time in answering our questions! You can organise your very own special whale encounter by contacting Aquatic Blue Charters on 07 5599 4104 or check out their website at www.aquaticbluecharters.com.au

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