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Record Whale Numbers Move North

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WIld About Whales
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Blog - whale breaching

Eagle-eyed whale watchers have counted a record number of whales migrating north along the NSW coast this year.

Volunteers at Cape Solander in Kamay Botany Bay National Park counted an impressive 4,813 whales heading up the cost for warmer waters. This sets a new record since the count first began in 1997, up from 3033 in 2016, which was previously their best year to date.

The bumper number of sightings included the highest number of whales ever counted in one day, with 224 whales being spotted on 26 June 2017.

Humpback whales once again dominated the count. Only two southern right whales were spotted during the 2017 season, along with 17 minke whales.

The data is collected to help estimate migrating whale populations. Experts estimate around 30,000 humpback whales alone will migrate north along the NSW coastline this year to head for warmer waters before returning between September and November with their newborn calves.

20 years of whale counting

The 16 volunteers who counted the northern migration of the humpback whales (from the end of May until the end of July) are part of a dedicated team of citizen scientists who this year celebrated their 20th anniversary of whale counting. These trained community volunteers devoted more than 2,000 hours of their time to the whale count program in 2017 alone.

They are part of the long-running Cape Solander Whale Migration Study, which operates from Kamay Botany Bay National Park. The volunteers keep a vigil at Cape Solander from dawn to dusk to see which whales are heading up the coast to the warmer waters off Queensland to breed. Over the years they have recorded humpback whales, minke whales, southern right whales, pygmy killer whales and even the extremely rare blue whale.


Volunteer Wayne Reynolds, who has a background in volunteer whale rescue, has been involved in the project for the entire 20 years.

“Cape Solander is a real focal point for community education about whales and it’s been wonderful to be part of a close knit group of loyal volunteers,” he said.

“We’re now seeing thousands of humpbacks pass by Cape Solander every winter, and it’s also been a thrill to see the occasional blue, southern right and killer whale over the years.”

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