Monday 29 June 2020

Migaloo and the price of being ‘different’


Reports have surfaced that Migaloo, the white humpback whale, has been seen on his 2020 migration along Australia’s eastern seaboard.
 
The Australian Whale Conservation Society (AWCS) urges everyone on and in the water to give humpbacks plenty of space to undertake the arduous migration that is critical for the survival of their species. This is particularly important in the case of Migaloo.
 
First reported by the AWCS in 1991, Migaloo has come under increasing pressure from people wanting a personal close encounter, being pursued by people on boats, jet skis, kayaks, surfboards as well as swimmer and divers. The situation is made worse by his presence being tracked via commercial and social media.
 
This places Migaloo at much greater individual risk from harassment, stress and injury than other humpbacks.
 
A special whale needs special protection
As a result, Migaloo is protected by ‘special interest management’ legislation in Queensland, which means that means that the closest anyone can approach him on any watercraft is 500 metres. The closest approach for aircraft, including drones, is 610 metres. Fines can exceed $20,000.
 
This applies to other white or mostly white whales that have also been reported in recent years.
 
Similar rules have been adopted by other states and apply throughout Australia’s Commonwealth waters as well.
 
Whales need understanding and compassion, not selfies
Humpbacks undertake their annual migration to warmer waters to breed and to give birth. Although it might not be obvious to us, every disturbance can interfere with humpbacks socialising, singing, nurturing their young and resting before their strenuous return journey to Antarctic feeding grounds. Migaloo himself bears the scars of boatstrike.
 
And always remember that whales are large, wild creatures that can react aggressively if they feel threatened.
 
Watching whales can bring us delight, excitement, joy and can even bring some to tears. In return, we need to keep our distance and mind our behaviour to ensure that our enjoyment does not come at their expense.


AWCS

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