Bumper season ahead as whale numbers continue to recover
HERVEY Bay is in for a bumper whale season, as humpback numbers continue their dramatic recovery.
Peter Lynch from Blue Dolphin Marine Tours said it was estimated humpback numbers had dropped to about 500 individuals before the end of commercial whaling in the 1960s.
Whaling stations in Australia and New Zealand which were established in the 1830s are known to have killed more than 40,000 humpback whales on their migration.
This year, humpback numbers are expected to reach in excess of 35,000.
Mr Lynch said it was great to see the numbers continuing to bounce back each season.
When he first started his business in 1996, they didn't start looking for whales until early August and now whales were regularly spotted about midway through July.
He said it was still a thrill to see people's reactions as they watched the whales.
Researchers from the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans also said they were hoping to see an increase in numbers.
Vice president of the organisation Jools Farrell said there had been an increase of 10-15 per cent each year and early indicators suggested a similar trend for 2020.
"The fact they started migrating earlier is a good start," Ms Farrell said.
This year will be an unusual season for Hervey Bay's whale watching operators.
Most vessels will be operating at 50 per cent capacity when the season kicks off in coming weeks.
Blue Dolphin Marine Tours has strong bookings for the school holidays, including the Brisbane long weekend in mid-August replacing the Ekka show holiday.
The vessel will operate around 60 per cent capacity until the current COVID restrictions change.
Bobbie Hayter from Spirit, of Hervey Bay said strong forward bookings have made up for all the cancellations and refunds due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Tasman Venture is also reporting a lot of inquires about whale watching and the company plans to offer three tours each day, two half day whale tours and a Remote Fraser Island tour.
Boat Club Whale Watch will operate about 40 per cent capacity at the start of the season and advanced bookings are currently poor.