There are more than 40 different species that belong to the wider whale family. Here are the top 6 large whale species seen in Australian waters.
The most populous of Australian whales, the humpback population is split into two distinct areas, the east and west coast. Both Australia’s east coast and west coast populations make their annual migrations between breeding areas in tropical waters to the feeding areas in the Antarctic. The humpback is known as the most enigmatic species of whale and often perform breaches, tail-lobs, spy-hops, flukes and fin slabs. A number of whale watching operators on both coasts offer single and multi-day tours to encounter the humpbacks in their natural environment. A species that was decimated by whaling, the current Australian humpback population is a testament to the recovery of a species when left to flourish. Individual numbers are expected to reach close to 60,000 this decade.
Southern Right whale
The Southern right whale is a unique looking whale often covered in barnacles, seasonally present along the Australian coast between late April and early November. It has been recorded in the coastal waters of all Australian states with the exception of the Northern Territory. Once hunted in great numbers, the Southern right whales of Australia show miraculous signs of recovery. For example, there were 2,100 individuals, and 2 years later 3,500 individuals were recorded, an unprecedented increase in such a short time.
Principally found around the southern coastline off southern Western Australia and far west South Australia, the southern right whale more commonly occurs between Sydney and Perth, including off Tasmania. Doubtful Island Bay and the Head of Bight are known calving areas.
The worlds second largest whale, Fin whales have been observed during aerial surveys in South Australian waters between November and May, however, fin whale distribution in Australian waters is relatively sparse, and records are primarily from stranding events and whaling records.
Antarctic minke whales, the prize target of the Japanese whaling fleets have been recorded in all areas of Australia except the Northern Territories. Antarctic minke whales appear to be distributed off the continental shelf whereas Dwarf minke whales are notorious for their occurrence off the Great Barrier Reef and Ribbon Reef especially where humans can interact and swim with the species. Growing up to 8 metres in length, they are one of the smallest whale species yet are also one of the fastest, recorded to reach impressive speeds of 20 knots.
Sperm Whales, the largest toothed whale and notorious deep divers have been recorded in all Australian states. Females and young male Sperm Whales have been recorded predominantly in warmer waters, while older males travel to and from colder waters and to the edge of the Antarctic pack-ice. Off the Western Australian coast, the whales have been recorded most frequently off the continental shelf where the waters drop-off quickly.
The largest creature in existence, and to ever exist, the Blue whale has been recorded to reach 30 metres in length. While populations of Blue whale may be more numerous off California, Sri Lanka and the Azores, sightings in Australian waters are widespread, and it is likely that the whales occur around the continent at various times of the year. One of natures biggest mysteries is the private life of blue whales, despite that, their Australian feeding areas are known to be located around the southern continental shelf, notably the Perth Canyon, in Western Australia, and the Bonney Upwelling and adjacent upwelling areas of South Australia and Victoria.