Southern Right Whales (SRW) have a similar migration pattern, north for the winter and south for the summer. However they do not travel as far. The West Australian population mostly spend their time on the southern coast. Pt Anne is a popular viewing site where many SRWs can be seen from the cliffs. The whale watching tours from Albany focus largely on SRWs. The SRWs are critically endangered, and the total numbers are still in the low thousands. As the numbers have grown they have spread out – Albany, Flinders Bay and Geographe Bay. They are rarely 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 they can better protect them. If left undisturbed they would probably spend much of winter there. Unfortunately this makes them prime targets for private boats, jet skis, kayaks who illegally approach them again and again until they move on for quieter areas. This extra expenditure of energy means the calves will have less milk. So little is known about the SRWs that we do not know how this constant disturbance affects the survival rate of the young calves. We do know that the SRWs are not increasing in numbers anywhere near that of the humpbacks, so we should leave them in peace and observe them from a distance.
We typically record about 60-80 sightings of SRW’s in Geographe Bay each year, and these sightings are of about 30 individuals.
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.