A record-breaking number of whales is expected to pass along Australia’s east coast in the coming months, during the annual migration from Antarctica to tropical breeding grounds. Whale watching companies say populations of humpback whales have been rising steadily in recent years, attracting large numbers of tourists.
Australia has been at the forefront of efforts to conserve whale species and to stop Japan’s annual hunt in the Southern Ocean.
Will Ford is a director of Whale Watching Sydney, a tour company that closely tracks the annual migration.
“One of the main arguments against commercial whaling is that the whale watching is a far more sustainable and far more profitable business. It is a pretty amazing migration,” he said. “They start down in the Great Southern Ocean around Antarctica, which is where there feeding grounds are in summertime, and over two or three months they will swim all the way from that area all the way up to the tropics, so almost a quarter of the Earth’s circumference, just about. The amazing thing is most of the whales won’t eat on that whole migration, so they are doing it all basically on an empty stomach.”
Tour guide Jonas Liebschner says each year the number of whales spotted has increased by around 10 percent, signs that endangered populations are rebounding because of commercial whaling bans.
The humpback whale migration continues through August, before the population begins making its way back to feeding areas in the Antarctic.