The Gold Coast is being treated to a hub of humpback whale activity

Last week, guests aboard Sea World Cruises were spoiled with a bounty of humpback activity. From adorable newborns to exciting heat runs, the whales were putting on a fantastic show for the Gold Coast.

Gold Coast whale watchers experienced thrilling whale behaviour known as a ‘heat run’.

A heat run is a term used for the behaviour of a pod of male whales fighting for the affection of the desired female. Heat runs can last from a couple of hours to a couple of days!

The leader of the pod, a large female, swam at erratic speeds. The pod of four males followed behind her, showing off their size and aggression to prove that they’re the strongest of them all.

This behaviour can get quite violent and male humpbacks will bite, slap and lunge at each other until only one remains.

Griffith University researchers migration data shows that the Gold Coast bay has become a major destination for heat runs, a crucial behaviour for conserving a healthy humpback population.

The humpbacks will stop their migration and spend a few days on the Gold Coast due to the area’s calm waters that are close to their migration route. Humpbacks spend their days off socialising and finding someone special to breed with.

The Gold Coast will see an increase in heat runs over the next few weeks as the large adult whales make their way into the area.

Sea World Cruises encourage water users to avoid chasing or approaching whales during a heat run as the males have their minds on one thing and lack awareness of their surroundings.

Whilst the males are busy chasing whale tail, soon-to-be and new mothers are also taking advantage of the Gold Coast’s calm waters. Sea World Cruises has seen three newborns in the area over the last week, including baby Ebony, Kaylee and Tony, playfully named after the onboard researchers and crew.

These three calves will be travelling to Northern Queensland with their mothers and getting strong for their big journey to Antarctica.

Prior research had suggested that females used the Great Barrier Reef as a birthing ground and nursery, however, recent research from head humpback whale researcher, Laura Torre-Williams, from the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management suggests otherwise.

Torre-Williams has been studying the population of calves in the Gold Coast Bay since 2013. Her research has shown that more calves are being born in and around the Gold Coast Bay area.

In 2021, there was a 5% increase in baby whales being born in the region. The increase in calves is suggested by the rising water temperatures, the sheltered coastline of the Gold Coast and the growing humpback population.

The Gold Coast is currently not a protected calving zone for humpback whales and poses several threats for mothers and their calves. These include shark nets in which young humpbacks can find themselves entangled, jet skis at high speeds and recreational vessels approaching too close.

Sea World Cruises encourages water users to do their part in protecting the calves and to ‘go slow when you see a blow’ and to keep a minimum of 300m away from mothers and their young.

There will be plenty of calves and active adult humpbacks on the Gold Coast during July as we head towards the middle of the Whale Watching season.

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