The sheltered waters of Hervey Bay in the Great Sandy Marine Park provide a resting area for humpback whales during their annual migration from the Great Barrier Reef to Antarctica. The majority of humpback whale sightings are within the eastern side of Hervey Bay, close to the western coast of K’gari (Fraser Island) between July and October each year.
The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) takes its scientific name from the Greek words megas meaning great and pteron meaning a wing. This aptly describes the whale’s huge wing-like flippers. It is the fifth largest of the great whales. Adult females grow to 15 m, slightly longer than males. A mature humpback can weigh 40 tonnes.
Each year the east Australian humpback whale population, approximately 30,000 animals1 migrates 6,000 km along the eastern coastline and arrive in the lagoons of the Great Barrier Reef about mid-June. Antarctic waters provide whales with their richest food source but the cold water is thought to be too harsh for newborn calves, which have no protective blubber layer.
After a steady increase in humpback whale numbers since they were protected, this species was removed from Commonwealth and state threatened species lists. However, successful reproduction and nurturing is critical to the continuing recovery of the humpback whale species, as is minimising human impacts throughout the whales’ journey.
Other species of whales sighted include pygmy sperm whales, sperm whales, melon-headed whales, false killer whales, minke and dwarf minke whales, Brydes whales, pilot whales, southern right whales and pygmy killer whales.
- Read more about humpback whales.
1 Noad, M., 2017. ‘Presentation - Cetaceans of Moreton Bay’, University of Queensland Marine Mammal Forum, Quandamooka Festival, Monday 31 July 2017, Moreton Bay Research Station.
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