Study reveals Geographe Bay's whale nursery

Evidence of a southern right whale aggregation area has been discovered in Geographe Bay by a team of dedicated researchers at Point Piquet.

Southwest Whale Ecology Study scientist Chris Burton will present the research team's findings at the 2019 Australian Marine Sciences Association's conference in Fremantle.

Mr Burton said the research was conducted with Sandra Salgado from Oceans Blueprint, Brodie Elsdon and photographers Ian Wiese and Blair Ranford.

"We will be presenting evidence that southern right whales have been coming into Geographe Bay for years," he said.

"We have land based sightings to show that from the last 15 years, and in the last couple of years there have been more 2018 was huge, there were almost as three times as many sightings.

"There were about 20 to 30 from our land based station at Point Piquet."

Mr Burton said it was great because southern right whales were still endangered in Australian waters.

"It is important to get the word out about how important Geographe and Flinders Bays are, all the whales go to Flinders Bay in their northern migration and Geographe Bay gets the whales in their southern migration," he said

"They come in for resting, with the southern rights Geographe Bay is actually a nursery, the females are nursing their calves, and the males are looking for unaccompanied females, they just chill out.

"There are threats to whales and one of them is boat traffic and underwater noise, we have seen quite a few incidents with people on jet skis and boats just hammer around the whales

"You can see them getting disturbed, more importantly with southern rights because there are so few of them, and if they do get disturbed all the time they will not come here.

"People need to know not to drive really fast during the whale season and really keep a lookout for whales, because you do not want to hit one."

Mr Burton said there had been really good research done in Australia which found two-sub populations of southern right whales.

"It is pretty exciting, we saw all these southern right whales last year and after looking at the plan they describe aggregation areas," he said.

"There are three huge aggregation areas along the West Coast including Doubtful Island, Twilight Cove and the head of the Bight in SA.

"In between that there are all these little bays, traditionally they spread out before they were hunted.

"They used to go to Geographe Bay and off Perth and everywhere, then they were slaughtered somewhere between 30,000 and 70,000.

"They left around 300 southern right whales.

"The southern right whale population in the western part of southern Australia is going pretty well. It has come up to 2900 and on the eastern side of Australia their population has been really slow to recover, there are less than 500.

"As the population builds they find new habitat and spread out, some of them are now coming up to Geographe Bay. They have been going to Flinders Bay for a while and that has been described as an emerging aggregation area.

"After last year with over 100 sightings we have been completing the catalogue of locally identified whales."