Griffith University researched the activities of whales arriving each year at the Gold Coast and Hervey Bay.
According to Dr Olaf Meynecke, the research showed that the whales used the two bays for many similar activities, such as resting and socalising, but that there were distinct differences.
“We found more competitive groups and aggressive behaviours in the Gold Coast Bay, whereas the results support the findings from earlier research for Hervey Bay, showing that it is predominantly a resting area for mother-calf pairs,” Meynecke said.
“In the GC Bay we also have the mother-calf pair resting, but the area is much easier to enter for males and doesn’t require much of a detour.
“Overall, our results suggest that the GC Bay provides habitat for a wide range of critical humpback whale activities, in particular for resting mother-calf pairs, mature whales seeking copulation and socialising immature whales.
“Hervey Bay had a higher number of mother-calf pair sightings, confirming the areas an important resting site.”
The research team analysed long-term citizen science data collected from not-for-profit organisations Humpbacks and Highrises and the Oceana Project who studied the movements and behaviours of 5400 humpback whales during their migration through the two regions.
“This is the first study to look at the behaviour of humpback whales in two different regions to determine how they use the areas,” Meynecke said.
Sarah McCulloch from Griffith’s Coastal and Marine Research Centre said it was important to understand why a species was utilising a habitat.
“What behaviours are they performing there, what forms of socialisation are they engaging in, and how important are these behaviours for their fitness and survival?” she said.
“The community has a great interest in our wildlife and the conservation of species, especially humpback whales.”
Meynecke said the study demonstrated that the two regions were critical for humpback whales during their annual migration, but for different essential activities, and should be considered as whale protection areas.
Jump to next article