Whale watchers get money's worth

PLAYFUL, cheeky whales have been making a spectacle of themselves off Sunshine Coast beaches this season, sliding under whale-watching boats and appearing to come up for a tickle on the tummy.

The giants of the sea have also been providing a boon for the tourist industry. Operators report record numbers of whale watchers.

Whale One Cruises owner Rusty Strickland said his business had already taken out about 5000 tourists this season and was looking to double the number of trips per day.

“Because there have been so many whales close to shore we have been able to offer shorter trips,” he said.

New Mooloolaba-based business Liquid Getaways was also having a bumper season. Owner Brett Bam said on almost every trip out the whales would slide under their small 8.5 metre inflatable boat.

“The boat is so small they are curious,” he said.

Mr Strickland said the whale population in south-east Queensland increased by about 11% a year and the once endangered species was now enjoying large numbers.

“There are an estimated 13,000 humpbacks coming past the Coast in this 2011 winter migration,” Mr Strickland said.

“The first were sighted in early June, mainly well offshore, and now they are slowly making their way back to Antarctica.

“They come here for mating, which brings on the acrobatics we love to see, and also for breeding. Approximately 1500 new Queenslander calves will join the group for the southern migration this year.”


Humpback Whale Facts

Adults range in length from 12 to 16 metres and weigh about 36,000 kilograms

They typically migrate about 20,000 kilometres a year

In the 1960s around 40,000 whales were slaughtered off south-east Queensland for their blubber and meat

It was estimated there were only 400 humpbacks left in the 1960s. This number has increased to 13,000 this season

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