Whale watching operators have recorded an average attendance for this season.
Whale watching operators have recorded an average attendance for this season. CONTRIBUTED

Whale watching season wraps up

PLENTY of whales but probably fewer people to enjoy their magnificence.

That’s the summary as the curtain comes down on another Hervey Bay whale watching season.

Many boat operators reported slightly lower passenger numbers than last year while a couple of operators were on a par or better than the previous year.

Tasman Venture owner Robyn Burgess said yesterday that more whales had visited the Bay this year but the number of watchers was slightly down due to the economic climate.

Mikat Cruises manager Bill Geldard said they had quite a successful season and numbers were up about 9 per cent on the past season.

“Last year was tough and this year’s been tough for some of the boats,” he said.

Mr Geldard said because Mikat went out for three-quarters of a day, they were different from the half-day boats and sailing boats and did not have quite as much competition.

He said Mikat did not run the full season because it was hard to find enough patrons, so there were “more whales than people”.

He said a $600,000 refurbishment including two new motors which were quieter and saved fuel had added to Mikat’s success.

Blue Dolphin Marine Tours owner Peter Lynch said he did not notice a downturn, with this year “as strong as the last couple of years which have been our strongest years ever”.

“Once the season got under way right up until the very end was just good consistent numbers of whales, lots of good interactions with whales and for us the fact that we encountered false killer whales on two different days was a highlight,” he said.

Mr Lynch said he had only seen false killer whales in the bay once before in 14 years and it was pretty special for him personally because he used to work with false killer whales at Seaworld.

Whalesong Cruises owner-skipper Jason Brigden said he also saw the pod of false killer whales for about three or four days and even saw what he suspected was a lost New Zealand fur seal.

He said the weather was pretty good overall and the whales were great but their passenger numbers had been “a bit average”.

Spirit of Hervey Bay manager Bobbie Hayter said passenger numbers might have been a tiny bit down on last year due to the economy.

“We particularly noticed that families weren’t travelling in abundance like last year.”

Ms Hayter said they saw whales every day during the season and one of the most unusual sightings was a whale with only half a tail that might have been chopped off by a propeller.

Quick Cat II and That’s Awesome owner Jill Perry said there were slightly fewer passengers this year for their five daily tours.

“The mothers and calves were probably more friendly towards the boats this year,” she said.

Shayla Cruises new owners Jenny and Craig Davies said it was their first season so they could not compare the numbers with the past year but said August and September were very busy while they were hit by some rough seas in October.

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