We are very excited to announce that the first Southern Right Whale of the season has been sighted in our beautiful Plettenberg Bay! It is always so exciting to see the first whale of the season, though all sightings are awe-inspiring and fantastic, there is something special about that first sighting after months of not seeing these giants of the sea. Southern Right Whales are easily recognisable with no dorsal fin, broad and squarish black flippers, a black stocky body, and a distinctive head with a large mouth which appears to be upside down, and white wart-like callosities. Though it can be difficult to see the body of the whale under the water, an identifying feature of the whale is a V-shaped blow. Southern Right Whales start arriving along the South African coast around June and we will be graced with their presence until November. They spend these months in our near-shore coastal waters mating and breeding, before migrating further south to feed on krill in the colder waters. Their name derives from the fact that they were the ‘right’ whale to hunt during years of extensive whale hunting due to their high yield of oil from blubber. Fortunately, as of 2008 this species has been classified as Least Concern as the population has been increasing in number after the ban on whaling in 1935. In South Africa extensive research has been done on the Southern Right Whale during their time spent in nearshore coastal waters, and the callosities on the heads of these whales have been used to identify specific individuals. From this it has been seen that Southern Right Whales calve every 3-5 years after a 12-13 month gestation period. Southern Right Whales are a fantastic species to watch from land as well as from the sea as they come very close to shore and spend a lot of time lying on the surface of the water (logging). So keep your eyes open for whales, they are going to start becoming more frequent over the next few weeks!
Written by: Minke Witteveen
For further reading:
- Branch, G.M., Griffiths, C.L., Branch, M.L. and Beckley, L.E. 2010. Two Oceans: A guide to the marine life of southern Africa. Pp. 300. Random House Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Reilly, S.B., Bannister, J.L., Best, P.B., Brown, M., Brownell Jr., R.L., Butterworth, D.S., Clapham, P.J., Cooke, J., Donovan, G.P., Urbán, J. and Zerbini, A.N. 2013. Eubalaena australis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013. Accessed: 05-06-2016. URL: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/8153/0