Southern right whales have a similar migration pattern; in the southern hemisphere this is north for the winter and south for the summer. However, they do not travel as far. The population that calves off the Australian coastline mostly spends its time on the southern region of the continent. Pt. Ann is a known viewing site where many southern right whales can be seen from the cliffs. Southern right whales are endangered, and the total numbers in the population that visits Australia’s coastline are still in the low thousands. As the numbers have grown they have spread out, re-establishing former calving grounds – Geographe Bay being one of them. In recent history, they are only occasionally seen north of Rottnest island.
When they are seen in Geographe Bay they are usually resting. The mothers prefer to take their calves into the small bays around Cape Naturaliste, where there is potentially greater protection. Unfortunately, this makes them prime targets for private boats, jet skis, kayaks who illegally approach them again and again until they move on to quieter areas. This extra expenditure of energy may mean that calves will have less milk. So little is known about the southern right whales that we do not know how this constant disturbance affects the survival rate of the young calves.
We typically record about 60-80 sightings of SRW’s in Geographe Bay each year. Based on photo ID taken over the last decade, drone photos taken since 2015, and the monitoring records of volunteers at Cape Naturaliste, the number of whales calving in the area and periods of stay meet the requirements to be classified as “an emerging aggregation area” for southern right whales.
Based on photoID taken over the last decade, drone photos taken since 2015, and the monitoring records of volunteers at Cape Naturaliste has been shown to meet the requirements to be classified as “an emerging aggregation area” for Southern Right Whales. This classification will be an important input to any reviews of the management plans for the recovery of this endangered species.