Newcastle season set for record numbers of whales but limited watchers

WOW: A humpback whale breaches in the Stockton Bight on the first weekend of the 2019 whale watching season. Picture: Peter Hanrahan
WOW: A humpback whale breaches in the Stockton Bight on the first weekend of the 2019 whale watching season. Picture: Peter Hanrahan

A record number of whales are set to pass by Newcastle's coastline this migration season but, in a complete turnaround from previous years, there will be a limited number of people watching them, especially from the water.

With the roll back of COVID-19 restrictions in NSW, the Newcastle-based NOVA Cruises will begin its whale watching season on Saturday, May 30 but with limited numbers of passenger onboard.

"This year is set to be a bit different from previous years with COVID-19 restrictions on passenger numbers resulting in a more intimate experience for guests with reduced numbers permitted onboard," said NOVA Cruises general manager Peter Hanrahan.

"But a bumper season is predicted with the highest numbers of Humpbacks set to pass Newcastle since whaling ceased on the east coast back in 1962 and nationally in 1979.

"Back then it was estimated there was only 200 to 500 Humpbacks left in the East Coast population. This year we are anticipating well over 35,000 Humpback whales to pass the Hunter coastline.

"We have nearly returned to predicted numbers of 40,000 to 60,000 Humpbacks which use to migrate pre-whaling days."

From late May through to early November each year, Newcastle's coastline comes alive with the annual migration of thousands of humpback whales.

The whales are making their way from feeding grounds in the icy Antarctic Southern Ocean to the warmer waters off northern Queensland.

As well as whales, dolphins, seals, sea birds and sharks can be seen from the city's shores.

Mr Hanrahan said guests onboard NOVA Cruises can be confident of spotting a whale with the company boasting a 94 per cent sighting rate last season.

For the few that don't spot a whale, the company offers a free return stand-by cruise to try their luck again.

For the 2020 whale watching season, COVID-19 measures and procedures are in place to ensure social distancing is maintained on board. NOVA Cruises staff have also undertaken infection control training.

At this stage, cruises will carry a maximum of 10 passengers onboard, which is subject to change with future government updates.

Book a cruise at www.novacruises.com.au.