Two incredible unique whale encounters on the Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast has had two incredible unique whale encounters last week. A southern right whale mother and calf and a rare sighting of a pod of orcas were seen off of the Gold Coast Bay.

Last week there was a rare sighting of a southern right whale and her calf only 300m from the Burleigh Heads coastline and an appearance near Surfers Paradise. This species of whale typically doesn’t come far enough north to Queensland, making it an even more special occurrence.

Southern right whales can be identified by unique patterns of white thickened skin on the head and lack of dorsal fin.They were named by whalers as they were the ‘right’ whale to kill for being highly rich in oil content.

In the 19th century, whaling in Australia diminished the southern right whale population from an estimated 55,000 thousand to 300 individuals. Thanks to protection and the banning of commercial whaling in 1978, numbers have increased to 3,500 whales in 2021.

The South East Coast population is made of approximately 268 individuals. Researchers are continuing to determine the cause of the slow population growth compared to its South Western Australian cousins, who are in the thousands.

A mother and calf southern right whale sighting is something truly remarkable, and perhaps an indicator of an increased chance to spot these whales more regularly on the Gold Coast.

 

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Rare sightings didn’t stop at southern right whales, with a rare encounter with a pod of orcas by a fisherman 30km off the Gold Coast.

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are one of Australia’s largest and most intelligent predators. Contrary to their name, they are in fact a species of dolphin and not a whale. They have a menacing sharp set of teeth up to 10 centimetres long and weigh up to six tonnes.

Orcas generally migrate further offshore from the Gold Coast and are unlikely to be encountered so close to the city. Orcas travel for food, rather than follow traditional migration patterns, making the East Coast population hard to track. Researchers have identified at least 60 individuals in the region, however, due to their elusive behaviour, it’s suggested that the numbers are in fact in the low hundreds.

Top of the food chain wherever they are, the orcas seen off the Gold Coast were most likely taking advantage of the region’s baby whale boom. Humpback calves make for a tasty meal for the killer of whales. Their hunting technique is compared to that of a pack of wolves, in which a pod of up to 40 will work together to separate a mother from its calf.

The threat of orca is a key reason why humpback whales migrate close to the Australian coastline. Mothers give birth in the shallow and sheltered waters of the Gold Coast and Far North Queensland, protected from the unlikely event of a killer whale attack.

Sea World Cruises were lucky to encounter 14 adorable calves over the last week, an increase of almost 300% from the previous weekly sightings. Passengers helped name the calves, including baby Humphrey and Paulio.

Guests can expect more small bundles of blubber throughout July and August aboard Sea World Cruises Whale Watching Cruise. Crew and passengers are also keeping an eye out for the rare chance to spot an orca or southern right whale.

Whale Watching Cruises depart daily from the Sea World Cruises Main Beach Terminal location. For more information, visit seaworldcruises.com.au/whale-watching