New South Wales southern right whales get more protection
Very quietly and without the usual PR fanfare the NSW Government has listed the southern right whale as endangered in NSW. That’s good news, in a way. It seems ironic that we can feel pleased that the numbers of this species are so low that they’ve reached a new listing level. Regardless we extend our congratulations to the NSW Government for this move to grant greater protection to these wonderful animals.
Due to their slow swimming speed, the fact that they floated when killed, and yielded high quantities of oil and baleen (whalebone) southern rights, so called because they were the ‘right’ whale to hunt, were almost wiped out in the 19th century, The whales were once plentiful, and ships would stay for a while after bringing convicts to the colony, to let their captains hunt southern right whales.
Since then southern right whales have been recovering slowly but steadily in the south west of Australia but the south eastern population hasn’t fared so well, with little sign of population increase. Each year southern right whales come to Australia’s coast to give birth but evidence suggests that fewer than 10% of those calving on the coast in any one year use the south eastern coast of Australia. While they have been seen as far north as Hervey Bay in Queensland, the majority are found south of Sydney but there are no established calving areas in NSW, although they have been intermittently seen calving in Eden. Therefore, in NSW they still need as much protection as possible.
IFAW supported proposals by the NSW threatened species scientific committee to raise the level of listing for the southern right whale to endangered. This listing is a good start but we look forward to NSW government building a recovery plan for the whales with concrete steps to help their survival. This means addressing threats to the whales such as noise pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, and ship strikes and vessel disturbance. These threats affect southern right whales throughout Australian waters which is why IFAW is also contributing to the Australian Government’s new recovery plan for southern right whales which we hope to see finalised soon,
But there are also important steps members of the public can take, This includes how we behave around whales while on the water. As southern right whales arrive and remain in Australian waters from May to October each year, they prefer shallow waters close to shore. This makes them great for whale watching but also makes them vulnerable to vessel strikes and the disturbance caused by boat noise. Tragically in 2009, a southern right calf was killed in Jervis Bay after being struck by a recreational boat. These kinds of tragic events can and must be avoided if there is to be a future for southern right whales in NSW.
That’s why this National Whale Day, on 2 June 2012, IFAW is promoting responsible behaviour on the water with the message Watch out, whales about! There are over 65 events occurring around the country by communities keen to spread the word. To find out more or get involved visit our National Whale Day page.