THERE’S something in the water at Port Fairy.
Eleven whales were sighted in Port Fairy bay yesterday and a love-in is the drawcard. Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) senior biodiversity officer Mandy Watson said the big gathering of southern right whales was for mating purposes.
Ms Watson said 11 was the largest number of whales sighted in Port Fairy for many years. “Port Fairy seems to be the place this year,” she said.
The mating behaviour has at times provided spectacular displays.
Port Fairy surfer Paul Besford saw a whale leap out of the water, in what is known as breaching, four times yesterday morning off Connolly Street.
That display excited other whales in the area, which responded with some fast moves through the water.
The whales have been in Port Fairy bay for more than a month, the longest period they have stayed for many years, providing a sightseeing feast for whale watchers.
At times the whales have cavorted in front of East Beach, the best ocean vantage point in Port Fairy, drawing numerous cars.
Ms Watson believed the big gathering included up to five females, who were being courted by about five males.
Some in the gathering were juveniles and unlikely to be successful in any effort to mate, she said.
No whale calves have been sighted so far.
Ms Watson said there was a lot of change in the subgroups of whales in the bay, with individuals swapping between groups.
She said the whale gathering had provided excellent viewing for whale watchers.
Sometimes the whales were off Belfast Reserve at the northern end of Port Fairy bay and at other times off the Port Fairy Surf Life Saving Club at East Beach.
On occasions, the whales have been only a few hundred metres from surfers.
Ms Watson reminded people it was an offence to go within 200 metres of the whales.
But if the whales came within 200 metres of people, such as surfers, it was not an offence.
Ms Watson said the whale season had in past years run until the end of September and sometimes into October, but “they could leave any day”.
Port Fairy tourism officer Sharon Parker said the large and month-long gathering of whales had been fantastic for the town.
Port Fairy’s whale bounty this year has been in contrast to Warrnambool.
No whale calves have been born at the Logan’s Beach nursery this year, meaning there has been no ongoing whale presence by females nursing their young.