Humpback whales start their coastal cruising

By REN LANZONnewsroom@gladstoneobserver.com.au

GLADSTONE waters can expect more and more humpback whale visitations each year, ac- cording to whale expert Dr Mi- chael Noade.

Dr Noade, of the University of Queensland, said about 7000 to 7500 whales would travel up the coast past Gladstone in- side the Great Barrier Reef this year, beginning about now.

"The whales are moving up the Queensland coast to breed near the Whitsundays,'' he said.

"Then they will move south- ward until November on the way back to their Antarctic feed- ing grounds."

He said this year's 7500 whales would number 14,000 to 15,000 by 2012 then double to 30,000 by 2019.

"There will be increasing op- portunities for Gladstone people to spot whales as their numbers grow,'' he said.

Dr Noade said humpback whale numbers had decreased to dangerously low levels until countries such as Australia, but particularly Russia, stopped hunting them for oil in the mid- 1960s.

He said more data was being collected, but at this stage it was believed the environment sup- ported about 30,000 humpback whales.

Gladstone charter operator John Beale, who also has a whale watch service at Hervey Bay, said while whale numbers were increasing, he did not think whale watching would ever become economically via- ble here.

"The whales move very quickly through this area and the seas are unprotected, unlike the Whitsundays where they stop to breed, or other more sheltered areas, such as Fraser Island, where they stop to rest,'' he said.

He said a nearby sheltered area where it was possible to spot whales was the Swain Reefs.



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