Whale watchers are hoping for a bumper season with breeding patterns expected to bring higher numbers of southern right whales to the region.
While no sightings have yet been reported to the South Australian Whale Centre, Kangaroo Island/Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch’s Tony Bartram is optimistic there will be high numbers in line with the eastern population’s three-year breeding cycle, which saw high numbers migrate in 2013.
“They tend to come to our coast for the warmer water where they can breed,” Mr Bartram said.
“It’s more protected here and they can raise their calves.”
Whale sightings are a regular occurrence from June through to October but Mr Bartram is still concerned the bumper season may not eventuate.
Western populations between Ceduna and Western Australia are recovering at an annual rate of seven percent, but the eastern population around Kangaroo Island and Victor Harbor has not seen a similar recovery.
Food vital to whales’ survival such as plankton and krill grow in colder waters and warmer waters may affect which direction the whales migrate.
“There are concerns around the low numbers, but we’re expecting a better year if that three-year cycle is in play – and other things haven’t affected the equation,” Mr Bartram said.
“But I guess time will tell.”
There have already been sightings of the similarly-sized humpback whale, but it is the southern right on which tourism depends, due to the species’ tendency to go closer to shore.
Mr Bartram said the two species were easily distinguishable, with the southern right having a flipper looking like a “car door”, while the flipper of a humpback will be elongated and pointy, with black on top and white beneath.
He urged people to report their sightings to the whale centre.
“If you’re not sure, just provide what you observed to the whale centre,” he said.
“It’s particularly important whale sightings are known about.”