Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Humpback Whales (Megaptera-novaeangliae) in Hervey Bay, Queensland - Behavior and Responses to Whale-Watching Vessels.

Humpback Whales (Megaptera-novaeangliae) in Hervey Bay, Queensland - Behavior and Responses to Whale-Watching Vessels

Corkeron PJ. 1995. Humpback Whales (Megaptera-novaeangliae) in Hervey Bay, Queensland - Behavior and Responses to Whale-Watching Vessels. Canadian Journal Of Zoology- 73 (7): 1290-1299

Abstract

The effects of the presence of vessels on the behaviour of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) was studied in Hervey Bay, Queensland, where southward-migrating whales are the focus of a commercial whale-watching industry. The behaviour of whales was observed from a small yacht under sail. Rates of occurrence of units of behaviour for entire pods were obtained from continuous sampling of pods. Pods without calves showed lower rates of behaviour generally when vessels were within 300 m of them. Pods both with and without calves:were more likely to dive rather than slip under when vessels were within 300 m. Hybrid multidimensional scaling of rates of behaviours of pods indicated differences between suites of behaviours exhibited by pods when vessels were within 300 m of them and when they were not. Classification of the patterns of occurrence of behaviours demonstrated that for pods both with and without calves, different units of behaviour tended to occur together when vessels were within 300 m and when they were not. Whale watching offers a nonlethal commercial use of whales, but in Hervey Bay, whale watching affects the behaviour of whales, which, although migrating, can be involved in breeding ground activities. Whether the short-term behavioural changes described here are accompanied by longer term avoidance of Hervey Bay by humpback whales as they migrate south remains to be determined.