SPECTACULAR: A whale breaches near Peregian Beach where University of Queensland whale researchers are based.
SPECTACULAR: A whale breaches near Peregian Beach where University of Queensland whale researchers are based. CEAL

Whales passed our beaches in record numbers

RESEARCHERS say the "huge” number of humpback whales seen passing Noosa beaches this year is consistent with trends of a booming population.

Dr Rebecca Dunlop from the University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science has been studying whale acoustics during this year's migration season based at the primary field site off Peregian Beach.

Dr Dunlop said the research team had to be careful not to hit whales with their boats when they were searching for mothers with calves to study.

"They're everywhere - you're actually trying not to run them over,” Dr Dunlop said.

"(One day) we saw maybe 30 groups ... The most common group you see is a mum and calf with one (whale) escort.

"It was whale central out there. You'd be hard-pressed not to run into whales.”

Fellow researcher Dr Michael Noad noted the population was thriving, with numbers in the tens of thousands.

"We were expecting about 30,000 whales this year, which is a huge number,” he said. "There really is a very large number of whales, which is fantastic.”

Dr Dunlop is studying the communication of mothers and calves by placing tags on their skin that read data from their sounds.

She said tagging a mother and calf off Peregian Beach last week was the most successful encounter to date.

"Getting a tag on the mum and also the calf is incredibly difficult, we think we're the first ones to manage it because it's really hard,” Dr Dunlop said.

"We've managed two double taggings so far, the one we did Tuesday was thebest by far. We managed to get a tag to last for seven hours on the calf, and 24 hours on the mother.

"They were double-tagged for about five hours. That's huge, that's a long time.

"All in all that was an amazing data set.”

Dr Noad is reminding boat drivers to be mindful of the large number of whales present as the last pods head back south.

"People in boats need to be careful, particularly if they're going through poor light visibility at night, to respect the whales are out there in record numbers,” he said.

"People need to respect the distances the government sets. By and large people are respecting that.

"It's tremendous to see so many whales out.”


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