Whales off Seaspray

Southern right whales have been spotted frolicking off Seaspray.

Southern right whales have been spotted frolicking off Seaspray.

A SMALL pod of Southern Right Whales was spotted off Seaspray last Tuesday.

Seaspray Caravan Park manager Stewart Courtney snapped a handful of photos of the whales, and said he thought there were three two adults and a baby, enjoying a clear afternoon.

"It was a perfect day," he said.

"They were moving quite fast."

DELWP senior biodiversity officer and whale expert Mandy Watson identified the whales, and said it was a surface active group.

"They are probably socialising possibly mating," she said.

"Southern Right Whales migrate to breeding grounds along the southern coast of Australian every winter mostly calving females, but also some sub-adult non-breeding whales appear along the coast.

"They spend several months here and generally do not feed while they are here.

Non-calving whales move along the Victorian coast throughout winter.

"All calving and non-calving whales return to the feeding grounds in the sub-Antarctic regions at the end of winter.

"Southern Right Whales are critically endangered in Victoria, and the south-east Australian population is small, estimated to be around 250 whales, and genetically distinct from other Australasian populations."

The sighting comes after DELWP announced an initiative using drones to photograph whales in Victoria's west, around Warrnambool's Logans Beach, which is known as a nursery area for the whales.

The data collected will be added to the South East Australian Southern Right Whale Photo-Identification Catalogue, curated by Ms Watson, and will also contribute to an ongoing, long-term study on the distribution of southern right whales across Australia and New Zealand.

In accordance with the Wildlife (Marine Mammals) Regulations 2009, a research permit is required to lawfully operate a drone closer than 500 metres to a whale.

"We've been granted a research permit, with strict conditions, which will allow us to operate a drone closer to whales than is normally allowed," Ms Watson said.

"The drone operators sourced for this research are fully qualified and experienced in operating drones in coastal environments."

To report a whale or dolphin emergency, phone 1300 136 017.

Gippsland Senior
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