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Byron Shire
April 17, 2021

Counting whales at Byron

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A humpback whale breaching off Cape Byron. Photo Byron Bay Whale Watching.

It wasn’t all that long ago that whales were hunted and killed in the waters around Cape Byron. These days the Cape is the best land based whale watching platform in the southern hemisphere.

To celebrate the start of the whale migration season, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) held the official whale census last Sunday, June 30.

The whale census, which is conducted by ORRCA, runs from dawn until dusk across the country. There were NPWS staff and ORRCA members at Cape Byron Lighthouse, as well as a number of other locations in coastal national parks around NSW, as well as key locations in Victoria, Western Australia and New Zealand on the same day.

ORRCA Second Vice President, Jools Farrell says that as the whale season gets underway, the information gathered will help create a snapshot of whale movements and behaviour around Australia. ‘This data will be analysed and used by ORRCA to understand more about these wonderful animals, such as their population growth levels, and how we can best protect them now and into the future through measures such as sustainable fishing practices, and public education,’ she said.

‘The northern Humpback Whale migration is in full swing with pods being regularly sighted passing Cape Byron.’

Ms Farrell says the Humpback Whale is listed as a threatened species in NSW. ‘We see that the population is steadily increasing at a rate of about 10 per cent per year, and numbers are predicted to reach an excess of 35,000 this year.’

Ms Farrell says the census would not be possible without the support of NPWS and our volunteers. ‘ORRCA is the only wildlife carers group in NSW licensed to assist NPWS with marine mammal rescue, rehabilitation and release.’

NPWS Education Coordinator, Lee Middleton says that Cape Byron is one of the best vantage points in Australia to view passing whales.

To find out about whales and the best whale-watching spots in our national parks, visit www.wildaboutwhales.com.au.

You can also share your whale sightings on Twitter with the @wildaboutwhales community using #whaleon, log the sightings via the mobile app, “Whales NSW”.

Should you witness any incidents involving marine mammals, please call ORRCA: 02 9415 3333

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  1. Older whales tell their whale friends that Cape Byron is a great spots to see humans, so they come in close to look at us.

    • Hopefully those older whales tell their younger whale friends to steer clear of those Gold Coast Killer Curtains aka shark nets.


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