After a whale season that has seen record numbers of whales off Victoria’s south-west coast, the majestic Southern Right Whales have left local shorelines.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) records confirmed sightings of the critically endangered species (Victorian Threatened Species Advisory List) when they visit the coast from May to October every year.

This season there have been sightings right along the south-west coast, from Portland, Port Fairy and Warrnambool to Lorne, Apollo Bay, Torquay and Jan Juc.

DELWP Barwon South West Senior Biodiversity Officer Mandy Watson said: “It has been a fantastic breeding season for Southern Right Whales along the south-west coast.”

“We’ve seen more Southern Right Whale calves arrive at Warrnambool’s Logans Beach than ever before, with seven new additions to the critically endangered species.”

“Previously the record number of calves born at Logans Beach was six calves in 1985 and again in 2009. Two calves per whale season is the average.”

“It’s exciting to see the new additions to this species, as the South Right Whale population around the south-east of Australia is only estimated to be around 250.”

“We’re hopeful that the bumper season we’ve had this year is part of a longer-term trend.”

“It’s also been a strong season for Humpback Whales, with large numbers seen moving through waters on their northward and southward migrations.”

“From May until September we had sightings of whales at Logans Beach almost every day, and as many as 25 whales seen on one day.”

Operation Chester was conducted during the whale breeding season to protect Southern Right and other whale species.  

The compliance operation involved DELWP patrols monitoring the activities of vessels and aircraft, and speaking to operators about keeping the required safe distances from whales.

Eight alleged incidents of non-compliance were investigated, and a number of people were formally interviewed by DELWP Wildlife Officers. Further action is being taken in some cases.

The record season attracted many avid wildlife photographers who contributed photos and sightings data to DELWP’s photo-ID database of Southern Right Whales.

All sightings data will assist with long-term monitoring of this species, and will be added to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.

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