Having a whale of a time!

2010 is proving to be a good year for whales! Not only has the International Whaling Commission (IWC) just prevented a resumption of commercial whaling, despite the best efforts of whaling nations to lift the ban, but there have also been a lot of whale sightings along the Great Barrier Reef this year! Minke researchers are calling it one of the best seasons they’ve ever had!

Have you seen a minke whale? Did you take a photo or video of it? If you did, Susan Sobtzick, a.k.a. “Minke Girl”, a PhD student at James Cook University, would love a copy for her photo identification project. Download the information sheet  “How you can help identifying dwarf minke whales” (PDF file) for all the details or email your photos to Susan.Sobtzick@jcu.edu.au with the date, time and location of the whale interaction (the name of the boat, the reef you were at, the GPS location if possible – you can get this from the skipper). Everything’s helpful!

If you took a lot of photos or video you can also send them on disk / video / etc by mail to:

Susan Sobtzick
School of Business
James Cook University
Townsville QLD 4811

Minke whales visit the ribbon reefs from roughly early-mid June to mid-end July each year. Despite ongoing studies by the Minke Whale Project team, it’s still a bit of a mystery why they come here! So every photo or video you can provide to researchers may help to fill in another piece of the puzzle. The humpbacks arrive a bit later (end of June, early July) and stay a bit longer (till around September).  Female humpbacks give birth here, in our warm, sheltered waters, before returning to the cold but plankton-rich waters of Antartica to feed over the summer months.

Minke and humpback whales are protected species in Australia and there are strict guidelines for interacting with them. There’s a chance of seeing whales from any boat at this time of the year, however, only a handful of boats have special permits allowing guests to swim with the minkes: Aristocat, Floreat Reef Charter, Mike Ball, Poseidon, The Silver Series, Taka, and John Rumney’s Eye to Eye Marine Encounters. Minkes are very curious and often approach swimmers, with encounters sometimes lasting several hours! If you’re lucky enough to have one of these encounters, it’s an experience you’ll never forget!

To learn more about minke and humpack whales, download our newsletter “The whales are back!”

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One Response

  1. That would be awsome to see, we were lucky enough to see a few humpback whales on the way back from the reef a few days ago.

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