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Whales of the Coral Sea

Between April and November Australia’s eastern coastline is home to the spectacular acrobatic displays of migrating whales. The Coral Sea plays a central role in this journey, being one of the most important migration corridors. Here, beyond the Great Barrier Reef, whales swim, feed and breed in warm tropical waters and right now we have a chance to protect this rare and unique place forever!

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@Tony_Burke I want the #CoralSea highly protected as it is an important breeding & migration path for more than 28 species of #whales

 

Dwarf Minke Whale Photo: www.xantherivett.com

In 2011 the Australian Government released a draft plan to protect nearly a million square kilometres of the Coral Sea.  The planned reserve would be free of oil and mining exploration and three-quarters protected from long-line fishing.  But, under the plan only 2 out of the 25, currently unprotected reefs of the Coral Sea would be fully protected leaving 90% of the reefs unprotected.

Whales have been the accidental victims of bycatch in the longline fishery of the Coral Sea, so this is a welcome step forward for whale conservation.  However, important areas such as the steep slopes of Frederick, Wreck and Cato Reef in the southern Coral Sea will remain unprotected and open to this and other forms of fishing.

A recent scientific study recorded thousands of toothed whale clicks around the steep slopes of these reefs indicating that they are important feeding grounds and habitat for toothed whales and should therefore be included in the marine national park zone.

Melon Headed Whales seen in pods 400 strong in the Coral SeaBetween April and November Australia’s eastern coastline is home to the spectacular acrobatic displays of migrating whales. The Coral Sea plays a central role in this journey, being one of the most important migration corridors.  It is home for more than 28 different species of whales and dolphins, 26 of which are on the IUCN Red-list of threatened species.  The incredible sight of 400 strong pods of melon-headed and false killer whales have been documented in this area.

 

There has been a major change in the attitude of Australia in the last 50 years from being one of the main whaling countries, to one of their protectors, fighting worldwide for the conservation of these beautiful animals.  By extending the marine national park area of the proposed Coral Sea Marine Reserve to include more of the reefs and sea mounts we will be making another step forward in ensuring the conservation of these beautiful and charismatic creatures.

Help us ensure the current plan is improved. Act today by asking Australia’s federal environment minister to extend the marine national park zone.

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Australia’s history of whaling to whale watching:

After the second war world the population of Humpback whales on the East Coast of Australia was about 10,000 individuals. Then, in just 10 years, from 1952 to 1962, almost 6,300 were harvested and processed by just one whaling station in Queensland.  When the effects of whaling on whale populations became evident, Australia adopted an anti-whaling policy and permanently ending whaling in its waters.  By starting to  promote the international protection and conservation of whales, Australians turned from a whaling nation to a protector of whales and were rewarded economically.  Today the whale watching industry is worth $42.5million to Australia.

 

Blue Whales in the Coral Sea

  • Blue Whales are listed as endangered in Australia and by  IUCN
  • Despite decades of protection, blue whales remain at about 2% of pre-whaling levels although their numbers appear to be slowly increasing at last.
  • Blue whales feed in the Coral Sea and the protection of the winter breeding location in the Coral Sea would be a significant step towards ensuring the conservation of these species.

Minke Whales in the Coral Sea

  • Minke whales are the smallest of the “great whales” or rorquals and they can be easily recognised by their narrow triangular snout
  • Dwarf Minke whales have been exploited by whalers since at least the 1930s and now, due to their curious nature, they have became the main subject to whale watching and diving operations off of eastern Australia.
  • In June and July, large numbers of Dwarf Minke whales inhabit the Coral Sea where they breed and it is unknown where they spend the rest of the year.

Humpback Whales in the Coral Sea

  • Humpback Whales are listed as vulnerable in Australia, as least concern for IUCN and their population that  was hunted to very low levels is now slowly recovering
  • The Coral Sea is considered an important nursery and breeding ground for Humpback whales that migrate in its tropical water from May-October where they calve, mate and fast by living off their layer of blubber (fat).

Humpback Whale: The Coral Sea is considered an important nursery and breeding ground for these magnificent ocean giants

Permanent link to this article: https://cafnec.org.au/2012/06/04/whales-of-the-coral-sea/