DELWP confirms sightings of Southern Right Whale calf near Portland

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has confirmed sightings near Portland of the first Southern Right Whale calf of the season.

DELWP has reviewed photographs of the calf and its mother, taken over three days this week.

The photos were captured by several local photographers, some of whom recently undertook DELWP training, learning how to photograph whales correctly for identification purposes.  

DELWP Natural Environment Programs Officer Mandy Watson said: “As Southern Right Whale numbers are so few and the calves are so rare, every new addition to the critically endangered population is exciting.

“At this stage, we believe the mother is new to our Southern Right Whale Photo Identification Catalogue, which contains more than 3,000 images, identifying more than 380 individual whales.

“This is a preliminary assessment, and we’re hoping that it can be confirmed by future images.

“We’re expecting the pair to remain in the area for some time yet, as after giving birth, mothers are known to stay in the same coastal area for several months.

“The mothers survive on their thick blubber layers while they nurse, allowing time for the calves to grow and become strong enough for a migration to the feeding grounds in the Southern Ocean.

“As Southern Right Whale calves are generally born in June, we're hoping more calves might arrive in the Logans Beach nursery area over the coming weeks.

“We’re continuing to closely monitor a female Southern Right Whale who arrived at Logans Beach last week, and is expected to calve any day now.

“The whale has been identified as one of our regularly breeding females, and is known as 'Odd Lips' due to her uneven lip callosities.

“While two calves per whale season is the average for Logans Beach, last year we had a record seven calves arrive in coastal waters around Warrnambool, so it’s difficult to predict how the breeding season will go.

“As always, it’s important that mother whales are given the space they need to move around and nurse their young in peace.

“The Logans Beach Exclusion Zone provides this protection, preventing powered vessels from entering the area until October 31.”

Outside the Logans Beach Exclusion Zone vessels must stay at least 200 meters away from whales.

Southern Right Whales visit Victoria’s southwest from May to October each year, and are critically endangered on the Victorian Threatened Species Advisory List.

It’s estimated that between 250 and 300 Southern Right Whales frequent the southeast coast of Australia.