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    Humpbacks and High-Rises

    June 24, 2021 4 min read

    humpback whale

    Every year, our coastline is graced with an incredible demonstration of endurance, acrobatics, and new life.

    The humpback whale is simply incredible, and a record breaker in more than one aspect… These cetaceans, who are renowned for their massive pectoral fins and peduncle muscles, have one of the longest migrations of any mammal, tracking between10,000 to 20,000 kilometres. From April to November, our eastern coastline comes alive as the 6th largest animal on the planet undertake the massive journey to provide their treasured babies with the best chance at life.

    Humpbacks and High-Rises was set up in an effort to discover more about these incredible animals during this critical period of time, and to protect them from harm.In the past ten years, HHR has not only gained a greater understanding of these breathtaking animals, but also built a community of dedicated and trained whale-surveyors, all up 600 of them so far!

    We are the largest marine mammal monitoring program in South-East Queensland and have been proudly running since 2011!

    We rely on the passion of our volunteers, the generosity of our industry partners and the growing love for the ocean seen in our communities.

    In our time researching humpback whales that pass the South-East Queensland coastline, we have collected thorough data on 5300 individuals… from their dive times, pods and behaviours. In fact, we have counted 6566 breaches in the past ten years!

    Perhaps one of the most important things we take as researchers is photos of whale’s flukes! The underside of a humpback whale’s tail is entirely unique for each individual—just like our fingerprints! All these photos and information about the whales have helped us to create a database to identify and monitor our sizeable oceanic pals…

    Humpback whales are a protected species, and for good reason… Whaling in Australia left approximately just over 100 individuals in our eastern waters, with the last whale station in Australia only being closed down in the 1960s. Fortunately, conservation efforts and giving them the needed protection on their migration through Australian waters allowed their numbers to rise up to an estimated 25,000.

    Don’t let this mislead you…we’re still in deep water!

    While there are still countries where the world's beautiful whales are hunted in their waters, such as Japan, Iceland and Norway… this doesn’t mean our waters are completely safe for the whales either. Research shows that around 15% of all global ship strikes against whales occur right here in our own waters.

    Furthermore, while Queensland has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, they are overshadowed by the“Shark Control Program”. Part of this program are some 186-metre-long nets deployed 500 m offshore. Typically, where these nets are set is around the same depth where humpback whale mothers take their calves to rest in shallower water.

    Since 2001, over51 humpback whales have been caught in the shark nets – which causesemotional stress, physical strain and life-threatening injuries– if they are rescued. Animals that aren’t freed from the nets in timedie from drowning as their body is slowly starved of oxygen.

    To add insult to injury, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that these nets actually stop people from being bitten by sharks (keep in mind, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning twice then to be killed by a shark). The whole point of the nets is to kill ‘target species of sharks’, many of which are either endangered, or protected.

    But there is more. Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic waste, including more than 640,000 tonnes of discarded fishing nets, lines and gear are left in our oceans. These nets are essentially suspended death traps that cause entangled animals to be unable to swim and even breathe properly! The gross amount of plastic dumped in our oceans is also dangerous as rather that degrading away, they just get smaller. Now plastic has made its way into the bellies of millions and millions of marine animal bellies (including humpback whales!) and continue to accumulate.

    One particular threat is getting harder and harder to ignore: Climate Change.

    These phenomenal animals may struggle to find sufficient food when their feeding grounds in Antarctica shift with climate change. They need to eat 900 kilograms of krill every day! The climate is getting warmer which is changing the occurrence of krill… making it more difficult for the exhausted, starving whales to reach the feeding grounds at the end of the migration in November and December.

    Whales need us to give them every support …

    Humpbacks and High-Rises are dedicated to being change-makers for these incredible animals.

    Our research, beach clean-ups, education and interventions on government level are some of the many ways we try to protect humpback whales and other marine animals, but we can’t do it alone!

    To learn more about us, the whales and volunteering opportunities, find us on Facebook at Humpbacks and High-Rises.By working together to protect our phenomenal marine life, we can ensure that the songs of humpback whales are heard for generations to come!

    If you would like to learn more about Humpback & High-Rises you can check out there website here: https://www.hhr.org.au/