Media Release  – Friday 9 August 2013

The 2013 whale watching season is in its peak with large numbers of humpback whales being sighted all along the NSW coastline. Particularly exciting has been the sightings of southern right whales recently off Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches, and off Cronulla in the south, and even further north up at Port Macquarie.

“While the humpback whale population is recovering  strongly with more than two thousand now counted passing Sydney each year, sightings of southern right whales close to shore is significant as their numbers are still very low. Maybe less than 100 currently visit NSW each year,” said Geoff Ross, Coordinator of Marine Fauna Programs forNSWNational Parksand Wildlife Service (NPWS).

“The recent sightings are very exciting as it means that the species is slowly returning to NSW bays and inlets to give birth and “hang out”.  These sheltered bays and inlets were traditional calving areas for right whales and we are starting to see them return home after whaling pushed them to the brink of extinction.

“With infrastructure, people and large numbers of commercial and recreation vessels making the formerly quiet bays and inlets of the NSW coast now very busy, we need to get the message out there that the whales are very special and people really need to give them their space and share the water. This species loves the shallow water, is hard to see and they travel slowly making them more vulnerable to vessel strike and entanglement.

“Watching the whales from the shoreline is often the best for everyone, safer for you and less chance of stress for an expectant whale. In particular from many of the NSW national parks which provide scenic headlands from which to view them,” he continued.

Geoff explained that an aerial survey of southern right whales is due to start on 15 August and run until 15 September. The entire coastline fromSydneyto the Victorian border will be surveyed to track numbers on their southern migration.

To make it easier for people wanting to spot the whales, here are Geoff’s top tips for whale watching from our national parks:

  • Head to a coastal national park. There are whale watching hot spots in our national parks from ByronBayin the north, to Edenin the south. 
  • Download the Wild About Whales mobile app– a must-have mobile app for any avid whale watcher.
  • Check the weather and pack the essentials – wear warm protective clothing and sturdy shoes. Take binoculars, your camera/phone, food and drink and a camping chair for comfort.
  • Research your species – the iconic Humpback and Southern Right whales are the most common species you’ll see, but it’s possible you may also see Minke, Blue, Sperm and Orcas (Killer Whales)
  • Know typical whale behaviorwhen you know what breaching, tail slapping, spy-hopping and blowing mean it may help you understand what’s going on below the surface. (Check the Wild About Whales website or app for these details).
  • Keep an eye out for other wildlife – dolphin sightings are more prevalent at this time of year. Seals too can be seen anywhere on theNSWCoast, they’re usually just lulling about on their backs with their flippers in the air! Gannets, albatross and other seabirds can be seen from coastal vantages and keep an eye out for forest birds, such as the beautiful honeyeaters.
  • Share the experience and get involved-  share pictures, stories and whale watching tips on the Wild About Whales Facebook page
  • Pick the best times – generally whales head north throughout May, June and July, and return southwards from September to November.

During the season, visitors are also encouraged to get involved by sharing their whale sightings on Twitter (@wildaboutwhales), Facebook, or by sharing via the Wild About Whales mobile app. The best whale watching spots can be found in our national parks all along the NSW coast, stretching fromByronBay in the North, toEden in the South.

As well as whale watching, there are plenty of other activities to experience in our coastal national parks, from bushwalking and photography, to Discovery tours and spotting a wealth of other marine and land based wildlife.

Start your own coastal adventure at www.wildaboutwhales.com.au.  It’s the best way for you to learn about whales migrating along our coastline, and to find the best spots in our national parks to see whales and enjoy other great coastal adventures.



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