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Aerial image of a Southern Right Whale from DELWP’s 2019 drone research program.

Whales Move On

Whales Move On

Aerial image of a Southern Right Whale from DELWP’s 2019 drone research program.

Southern Right Whales head south for summer

The surprising visit of a whale into Warrnambool's Lady Bay will likely be one of the last Southern Right Whales to pass through south-west Victorian waters for the season as the mammals travel south for the summer.

While unusual, whales have been recorded along the coastline outside of their usual migration period in the past.

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Southern Right Whales visit the southern coastline of Australia to give birth and nurse their offspring in the cooler months of the year, typically from May to October, before returning to Sub-Antarctic waters to feed.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) collates and catalogues identifying images and documents confirmed sightings to monitor population recovery of the critically endangered species (Victorian Threatened Species Advisory List).

The first Southern Right Whale sighting for the 2019 season was reported at Portland in early May, followed by the first cow-calf pair arriving at Logans Beach in Warrnambool in late June.

There were seven Southern Right Whale cow-calf pairs recorded this year, however sadly two calves died. Images taken by citizen scientists of the calves and their mothers are being reviewed to assess factors that may have contributed to deaths of the two calves.

This year saw the launch of a new online tool for citizen scientists and casual whale watchers to contribute whale sightings and photographs.

The tool, hosted at www.swifft.net.au, was developed in partnership by DELWP’s Barwon South West Region and the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research to allow community members to quickly and easily report whale sightings.

More than 90 people from across Victoria registered to use the tool this year, with almost 300 whale images received from the public through this platform.

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