Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrate long distances each year on a return journey from low-latitude breeding grounds to high-latitude feeding grounds. Migration is influenced by subtle and complex social behaviors and the assumption that whales transit directly through the migratory corridor off the east coast of Australia requires further investigation. From 2003 to 2005, we followed the movements of 99 individual whales within one migratory cycle from three locations, off Byron Bay during the whales' northern migration and in Hervey Bay and at Ballina during the southern migration. The median sighting interval of whales between Byron Bay and Hervey Bay (n = 26) was 52 d (IQR = 42.5–75.5); between Byron Bay and Ballina (n = 21) was 59 d (IQR = 47.0–70.0); and between Hervey Bay and Ballina (n = 33) was 9 d (8.0–14.0). The overall pattern observed from these resightings suggests that Group E1 humpback whales spend approximately two months in the northern quarter of their range during the austral winter months. Intraseason resightings of whales at Ballina (n = 13, median sighting interval = 7 d) also suggest that some individuals, particularly adult males, may circle back north during their general southward journey along this part of the coast, perhaps in an attempt to increase mating opportunities.
Buns, D, Brooks, LO, Harrison, P, Franklin, T, Franklin, W, Paton, D & Clapham, P 2014, 'Migratory movements of individual humpback whales photographed off the eastern coast of Australia', Marine Mammal Science, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 562-578.
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