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Whales vie for the ideal mate

Thousands of humpback whales and their watchers are having a whale of a time on the big mammals’ annual migration north to breed before heading back to Antarctic waters for summer.
Thousands of humpback whales and their watchers are having a whale of a time on the big mammals’ annual migration north to breed before heading back to Antarctic waters for summer.

A "VIRTUAL highway" was how Yamba whale-watch cruise operator Peter Jones this week described the amount of local whale traffic.

Mr Jones, who operates Rockfish Cruises, said a predicted 14,000 whales would pass our coastline this year.

"They're increasing in great numbers," he said.

"I've just had four days of whale watching about five nautical miles out and there's whales everywhere. There's even new calves; we've seen pods of six and seven."

Mr Jones said the whales were moving quickly because the males were in a hurry to get up near Fraser Island to breed.

"The males are moving quick because they don't want to get an ugly one when they get up there," he said laughing.

"They call it a heat run; a bunch of males get together and if a female's on heat they'll sense it and they'll fight each other.

"The one who wins will mate with the female because it's the strongest.

"They'll start coming back about August and that's when they come into the bays with their baby and teach them how to breach and do all the pectoral-fin slapping - that's when it's fun out there."

Mr Jones said he was seeing a lot of "big" pregnant females up to 50-foot long.

"I've got a six-metre cat and their girth is nearly as wide as my catamaran," he said.

The number of whales, according to Mr Jones, was also on the increase.

"There's a heck of a lot more whales than there was at this time last year," he said.

"Last year, each trip we'd go out on we'd see three or four whales, but we must have seen 20 whales the other day.

"And this year they're only 400 or 500 metres off the bar, but I generally find them about five nautical miles out."

As you'd expect, Mr Jones said he never tired of seeing the whales.

"Once you see one . . . well, they're majestic, intelligent and they know what you are," he said.

"I think humans relate to whales because it's another mammal and they're just so big and graceful."

Rockfish Crusies will soon be ceasing operations but there is still time to book a trip to see the whales.

Topics:  whale migration, whale watching




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