HHR  - January-March Newsletter 2020
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Humpbacks & High-Rises

Whale Tails 2020/1

This is our quarterly newsletter bringing you a summary of the urban marine mammal world. Facts, Stories and Events. Join us on the largest mammal migration on earth!
Quarter Summary 
For the first time we managed to upload our flukes to Flukebook. An online platform allowing researchers to share flukes and makes use of automatic recognation. 
Into the 2020 whale season - or not

We can already say that this year will be like no other and I hope you are all doing ok in these difficult times. We are yet to see how the rest of the year will unfold but it is safe to say that our efforts to protect marine mammals will be severely impacted. As whale watch operators will have to cut their trips, we will need to run more land based surveys once some restrictions are being lifted. 

Our Whale Festival is planned for the 5th September and as an alternative we may shift it into October giving us a bit more time as festivals will likely be banned for at least 6 months. 

To the good news, our whales wont feel much of a difference other than being it a lot quieter. I am sure they in fact enjoy some "down time" with less boat traffic and vessel noise. First sightings of this season were reported from Port Macquarie in March and early April from Byron Bay.

HHR volunteers were reporting live to ABC radio on the current beach situation in early April and I provided a short insight into the current whale migration and what we can expect for this years whale season. 

In March we ran a very successful Clean Up Australia day beach clean up at Burleigh and we also ran stalls at the Ocean Film Festival. 

Thanks for being part of our ocean community. 

Olaf Meynecke
One of  the many ocean themed face masks you now get to support us getting through CoVid-19 and make a difference by reducing the spread. Want one? Here!
CoVid-19 Impacts - we are not immune
by Karlien Paas

In these uncertain times with lots of restrictions on our movements amidst a global pandemic, we at Humpback and High-rises care about the whales and our research. We know that the whales are already on their way back to the Gold Coast bay, and we all love the whales and don’t want to miss out. Therefore, we are trying to make the best of the 2020 whale watch season. Since we don’t know how long the current restrictions on physical distancing, staying in your area, and only leaving the house for essentials will continue we are exploring alternative whale survey opportunities so that we dont lose an entire whale season.

Normally, in this time of year we would plan for our season. Unfortunately, the current COVID-19 restrictions make it impossible to do this.  Currently we are making and selling reusable cloth face masks, we are exploring the option of conducting land-based whale watching surveys (if permitted), and we are continuing to educate people on humpback whales via our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Our reusable cloth face masks are sustainable, but they will not 100% protect you from COVID-19. However, as health care professionals are running out of masks it is much better for the public to use cloth masks and leave the kn95 masks for the health care providers. Our cloth masks will prevent you from touching your face (wash your hands min 20 secs after taking off the mask and putting it in the wash), and they will make everyone who sees you envious of your awesome sustainable (whale) mask. 

For our land-based surveys we are currently exploring our options. You will be able to contribute to scientific research and help make a difference for the whales! To do this, you will receive (online) training seminars where we explain how to conduct land-based surveys. You will be scanning the ocean for whales (blows, breaches, etc.). This means that with the right training and equipment you will still get an amazing whale watch experience.
Our social media channels will keep updating you on whale news (including sightings!) and educate you on whale facts, so please stay in touch via Facebook or Instagram for your regular dose of whale news!

What else can you do to help?
Since the whale watching is probably limited in 2020, this is the year to get involved behind the scenes. HHR is not only about collecting data via whale-watching. Collecting the data is only the beginning. We already have a lot of data from previous whale-watch seasons on the Gold Coast, and we are cataloguing sightings, flukes, and dorsals. The reason we are doing this is to identify individual whales and follow them throughout a season, as well as identifying whales that are coming back over the years. You can send an email to to get involved.

Finally, we want to remind you that our online shop and donation portal are open to buy some whale merchandise:
Clean Up Australia Day Success
by Sarah McCulloch 

On Sunday 3rd March HHR organised a beach clean up at Burleigh Heads. We had over 40 volunteers joining us to help pick up rubbish. A big thank you to the international students, Scouts group and family, and everyone else who took time out of their weekend to give back to our environment! Also thank you to Gecko and Anna, who supplied the clean up bags and gloves that were very useful on the day.
After 2 hours and a huge effort from all involved we had collected large amounts of rubbish from all over the beach, the dunes, and the parks. It took almost as long to count and tally the rubbish we collected as it did to collect it. Massive thank you to Carl and Scott who helped count it all; it is a slow and tedious job but is very important to report back what we find.
We collected over 100 pieces of hard plastic, 2 large bags of soft plastics, 60+ glass bottles and pieces, 80+ pieces of paper/cardboard, 22 bottle caps and lids, 28 pieces of plastic cutlery, 12 straws, 16 aluminium cans and 150+ cigarette butts. These numbers are quite conservative as counting every single small piece of plastic and tiny piece of microplastic was quite difficult.
While it is fantastic that we can have the community support to run beach cleans, the fact that so much rubbish can be collected in just a few hours is disappointing. Our society needs to try to remove our reliance on single use plastics. Let’s try to put into practise the 4 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle! Some great alternatives to plastic are: grocery produce bags that can be used for fruits and vegetables or at bulk food stores, keep-cups, metal or rubber-tip straws, and bamboo or metal cutlery. Hopefully next year when we return there may not be as much rubbish to be collected!
Ocean Film Festival
by Chantelle Youngberg

In March 2020, HHR was fortunate enough to once again have a stall at the Ocean Film Festival world tour, hosted by HOTA, on the Gold Coast. Little did we know at the time, this would be one of the last events for a while that HHR volunteers would attend, and thankfully it was a fantastic two nights. The unique selection of films aligned perfectly with our values, and we were able to encourage interest in volunteering for our local humpback whale research project. Unfortunately, our stall was allocated space on a table where the film festival prize draw was also organised, so it proved somewhat difficult to get our name out there! Luckily, we are firm believers that consistent presence is everything, and we all agreed it was a successful event. The films were a mix of educational, enchanting, and emotional journeys, with undoubtably a few tears shed here and there. We were mesmerised by polar bears and their plight, shocked by record breaking and undiscovered coral species, and entertained by surfers in the ice. But we are not without a special mention to our true love, the humpback whale, showcased so beautifully in ‘Swimming with Gentle Giants’. It reminded us what we really are here for at the end of the day – conserving and protecting our magnificent, charismatic and intelligent humpback whales. 
More and more humpback whales become entangled in fishing gear and die a slow and painful death over many months.
Whale entanglements and climate change
by Olaf Meynecke

A recent study published in Nature Communications showed a clear link between entanglement rates and climate change. Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of marine heat waves -- warm water anomalies that disrupt marine ecosystems -- and this is creating new challenges for fisheries management and ocean conservation. The record-breaking marine heat wave of 2014 to 2016 caused changes along the U.S. West Coast that led to an unprecedented spike in the numbers of whales that became entangled in fishing gear.

Whales moved closer to shore in the search for food as other offshore areas were food depleted. They spend longer times in nearshore areas with lots of fishing activities and as a consequence were more likely to get entangled. Last year, the east coast of Australia experienced the highest entanglement rate of humpback whales ever recorded. Mostly younger whales were found to be dragging fishing gear that in some cases was tracked back to South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Have our whales also started shifting their movements due to climate change? We dont have enough data yet to confirm this but there is some indications that we are experiencing some drastic shift in whale migrations and behaviour. 
Upcoming Events & volunteer opportunities

You can help making a difference and be part of our growing group of whale and dolphin researchers. 
  • Join our dedicated volunteer team and sign up for the 2020 whale season with the first training planned to be held 18th and 22nd May 2020 starting 6pm. Due to current restrictions in place these training workshops may have to be cancelled. Please check here for updates
  • Want to be part of the core team and get the real deal? Join our dedicated team that runs HHR at our monthly general meetings. Held at the end of each month. Next meeting 21st April 2020. This meeting will be held online and you can join at Zoom Meeting
  • Become an intern with HHR. We call for interns for the 2020 whale season. 
  • Sign our petition: You can stop whale entanglements by supporting our Stop whale entanglement letter and request alternative methods to be put in place and developed. Do you know a business on the Gold Coast that would like to endorse the open letter? Please, send us an e-mail.
  • Join our 3-day research expeditions on the Gold Coast in 2020. Bookings and details here.
HHR relies on the interest, support and good will of people who feel that protecting marine mammals and learning about them is important. We are honest, independent and stand for the well being of our natural wonders and a sustainable whale watching industry. Our ongoing work entirely depends on donation. Please, consider donating for whale research and protection.


You can support whale protection and research in south-east Queensland; a small donation goes a long way.


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Humpbacks & High-Rises Inc · Post Office Mail Box 195 · Gold Coast, Queensland 4222 · Australia

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