While Dan was diving off the coast of the Whitsundays last week, he was thrilled to hear the eerie, resonating call of a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Can’t believe it’s that time of the year again, already!
Their migration path is one of the longest in the animal kingdom, up to 13,000kms over 3 months, and forms an integral part of the humpbacks lifecycle.
While the Southern Ocean offers a rich food supply for the whales, our warm coastal waters provide the ideal habitat for birthing and nurturing whale calves. Our alluring coastline also makes a perfect romantic playground for the humpbacks to secure a mate, before heading home to the frigid Antarctic in August/September.
But it’s not just the onset of the migration that has Humpbacks in the spotlight lately. On the good side – after centuries of suffering at the hands of whalers who decimated populations, humpback numbers are definitely on the rise. Their IUCN listing has moved from vulnerable to least concern, meaning the species is now considered to be at a lower risk of extinction.
On the bad side – a recently discovered skin condition appears to be spreading throughout our humpback populations. Scientists know very little about the condition that causes lesions on the humpbacks skin, but are trying to determine the cause. Poor health can make whales even more vulnerable to the everyday threats they face such as ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, habitat deterioration, declining prey and noise disturbance.
If you live (or holiday) near the whale migration path, or you’re planning on embarking on a whale watching adventure soon, get your binos out and pay extra close attention!