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Migaloo sightings prompt call for caution around whales - 01/07/2009

As Migaloo the white whale makes his way north during the annual migration of humpback whales along Australia’s east coast, researchers have issued a renewed call for extreme care around all whales.

The Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre is urging people to heed the special exclusion zone which applies to Migaloo. The regulations mean no one can bring a boat or jet ski closer than 500 metres or fly an aircraft within 2000 feet of the whale.

Migaloo was sighted off Evans Head yesterday and off Burleigh Heads this morning.

Wally Franklin, a researcher with the Centre and co-director of The Oceania Project, said the intense interest in Migaloo, an all-white whale, put him at increased risk.

“People need to make sure they adhere to the regulations, which are in place to protect Migaloo. We also need to make sure people are aware of the general regulations in regard to all whales. With the population of humpbacks increasing, there is a greater risk of boat strikes,” Mr Franklin said.

“We are seeing more incidences of that kind of damage to whales, where you can see the marks left by a propeller. We share the near coastal waters with whales and dolphins and we need to take particular care when in the water,” Mr Franklin said.

Mr Franklin said while most humpback calves were born in the waters off Queensland, some were born earlier in the season and had to make the trek along the coast.

“These young whales are at quite high risk until they reach the protected waters off the Great Barrier Reef. If anything occurs to interfere with the relationship with their mother they become very vulnerable,” he said. “Boat strikes and entanglement in fishing lines are among the threats.”

There have been a number of strandings already reported along the coast. People who find stranded whales or dolphins are also being reminded to immediately contact relevant authorities and report the location of the stranding and not attempt to the put animals back in the water.

“Injury and illness are two of the primary causes of strandings. Prior to doing anything, people should seek advice as quickly as possible,” Mr Franklin said.

“Anyone who sees a whale or dolphin in distress, or a stranded animal, should contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service and take extreme caution until help arrives.”

Further information is available at
Department of Environment and Heritage

www.scu.edu.au/whales

www.oceania.org.au

Photo: Migaloo, an all-white humpback whale, is sighted regularly during the annual migration along Australia's east coast. Photo by Dan Burns, Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre.

Media contact: Brigid Veale, Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.


For further information, please contact:
Communications and Publications
Southern Cross University
PO Box 157 • Lismore NSW 2480 • Australia
T +61 2 6659 3006 or +61 2 66203508 • e scumedia@scu.edu.auw www.scu.edu.au/scunews