A protective mother Humpback Whale is one of the reasons why our WA Humpback population has grown from near extinction to the largest on the planet today. The nurturing and protective instincts provide newborn calves with the highest chance of survival as their mums escort them down the coastline safely. Today our first interaction was with a very young whale, appearing to be a yearling and recently separated from mum. It is unusual to sight a yearling this late in the season, they are normally some of the first individuals to make the migration back south in September. Perhaps this yearling had been born later in season 2018 which resulted in his separation from mum being postponed by a few extra weeks compared to everyone else. Curious and shy, he seemed to observe us carefully as he kept a low profile and continued on his journey towards Rottnest Island.
Surface activity began further ahead as a mother Humpback Whale began to breach and head lunge. Arriving in the area we watched carefully for the next resurfacing, looking to our port side we could sight mother and calf swimming towards us. Unfortunately, a second vessel in the vicinity moved at speed towards the mother Humpback and calf which resulted in a defensive and powerful tail lob from the female. Although spectacular to witness, it was an example of influencing behaviour rather than observing behaviour. As whale watchers we have a great responsibility to move correctly with the whales we interact with and understand their language. A mother Humpback should not need to ever exert any unnecessary energy in surface activity caused by aggressive vessel movement. A protective mother Humpback Whale will go to all lengths to ensure her calf is kept safe and we must appreciate that and ensure we do all we can to enjoy their company, but not influence their behaviour.