HHR  - July-September Newsletter 2019
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Humpbacks & High-Rises

Whale Tails 2019/3

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 
Whale season 2019 coming to an end! A tail slap by one of the many subadults who occupied our Gold Coast bay.
Whale season 2019 highlights
by Olaf Meynecke

The 2019 whale season has been a busy one for HHR so far. Only a few more weeks until most of our humpback whales will have passed the Gold Coast on their way back to Antarctica.
We have been sadly surprised by a large number of whales reported as entangled this season. In particular at the start of the season humpback whales were sighted with fishing gear in the range of 30-40 animals. The majority of entanglements remain unnoticed and also only few have the luck to be disentangled. For those entangled it most certainly leads to a slow and painful death. There are ways to make fishing gear less dangerous for whales.
We also had entanglements in shark nets as we have every year. However, as there appear to be less mother and calf pairs and less whales closer to shore in 2019 the number of entanglements is below last year so far. The Gold Coast had at least 3 entanglements and the Sunshine Coast 2 entanglements in shark nets. The number of unreported (broken nets with self release) remains undocumented but is expected to be higher than the number of released whales. If you have not yet, take a moment and support the stop whale entanglement petition. HHR and myself have taken a strong stand for the replacement of shark nets on the Gold Coast in the past 10 years. As such we have also helped with the production of the Shark Net Film and we continue to support other organisations and initiatives aiming to change the current practice. 
A Marine Mammal Symposium was co-organised by me as part of the Australian Marine Science conference in Fremantle in early July. This symposium attracted over 20 presenters showcasing their work on marine mammal research in Australia. Being the connection between science, community and government is one of our main goals.
In early August HHR research was presented at the Wine Whale and Sea Tales Science Week event organised by Sea World Cruises. Funds raised from this event went to various organisations and research groups to support their work including HHR.
On the 31st August the Gold Coast first whale festival was organised by HHR at Burleigh Heads. You can read more about the festival here.

Over the past few months from May until end of September we have trained up more than 80 volunteers in undertaking whale surveys and we have been collecting data on whales on almost every day of the whale season so far. A summary of the data collected will be available in our end of year summary in December.
We still have activities scheduled for the remaining year. A screening of a doco is planed for November and our AGM with award ceremony will be held on the 5th December. 

Please, help to continue making a difference for our whales and oceans by coming to our events, donate and participate. 

Olaf Meynecke
The first ever Gold Coast Whale Festival hosted by HHR at Burleigh Heads on the 31st August was a great success. 
The Gold Coast Whale Festival
by Olaf Meynecke

The Gold Coast's first ever whale festival was held on Saturday 31 August 2019 at Burleigh Beach. Organised by HHR the festival aimed to increase awareness in the local community for our oceans and the magnificent whales that visit the Gold Coast every year. It was an event for community organisations dedicated to the protection of our coastal and marine environment. We brought together a range of groups displaying their fantastic work and engaging with the public.
The Whale Festival was a great opportunity for everyone to learn more about whales in the Gold Coast bay, and how they can participate to make a difference. There were stalls and exhibits from various organisations such as Sea Shepherd, Ocean Connect, Beach Care, Surfrider Foundation, Dolphin Research Australia and Gecko which are leading our community to coastal and marine sustainability. We had activities for the whole family throughout the day giving everyone a chance to learn and be the change they want to see: a beach scavenger hunt cleanup with exciting prizes by Bush to Coast, a whale watch from the headland with HHR, and storytelling for our youngest to learn more about whales by Asher and Storytelling circle Gold Coast.
I would like to thank the many groups and organisations and individuals that made this festival possible and a great success. Photos from the event can be found here here
The Gold Coast whale festival behind the scenes
by Caitlin Adams

Organising the Gold Coast Whale Festival took hundreds of hours of volunteering and dedication. It blows my mind to think this festival began with a thought followed by many meetings and discussions only 6 weeks before the festival date and then became the biggest event held by our organisation so far to celebrate the migration of our Humpback Whales. I was amazed with the amount of people willing to give up their free time to allow this event the opportunity to occur in the first place. We had amazing bands and musicians offering up their time and services to play this event for free. Delicious food trucks willing to give our festival a shot and many volunteer hours assisting with the organisation of every little detail from the stage to the volunteer roster and event day plan. 6 Meetings were held prior to the festival and hundreds of messages, emails and phone calls made. A live document created to develop the day plan, layout for the event and delegate tasks from organising chairs and tables to car park applications. We are looking forward to plan the 2020 festival.
Our dedicated research team from our fourth HHR expedition in 2019. You can join the last research expedition in October but hurry, places are limited.  
Words from our interns
by Sarah Kim

Working for HHR has been an incredible opportunity. I was here during a special time when Gold Coast’s first ever whale festival happened. To see the HHR community come together and work tirelessly to speak on behalf of our beautiful mammal friends underwater was such a heartwarming and inspiring experience. Throughout these 10 weeks, I feel that I was able to make tangible contributions to the organization by mapping the whale sightings, organizing fluke catalogues, and designing fliers for the whale festival. I want to thank Olaf for making this internship possible, and I want to acknowledge every HHR member’s incredible passion for the whales. Although I am sad to leave, my advocacy for healthier whales and overall marine life continues. Sending love from California!
Curled whale flukes
by Vivian Kalas

During our research surveys this season there were some sightings of ‘curly’ flukes or tails.  These very uncommon and unusual flukes have also been sighted by whale watchers and researchers on the Gold Coast, Hervey Bay and Southern New South Wales in the last couple of years. In one extreme case the fluke has been bent to form a full circle at the top of the tail. This individual was spotted on the Gold Coast in 2017 and then re-sighted in 2019 in Eden, NSW.

This curvature of the fluke, is likely to cause the whale difficulty during swimming and diving. The whale’s tail is perfectly adapted to provide the whale with a push as it acts as a type of propeller moving the whale through the water. Changes to the tail shape such could impact its ability to survive especially during the whale’s annual long-distance migration of the Australian East Coast.

Not a lot is known as to why these flukes have become curved but some evidence points to entanglement or injury to the peduncle area. Such as the case of a humpback whale named ‘Taco’, sighted in the United States and Mexico whose extreme curvature of the fluke was caused by clear entanglement wounds ( This year has seen a record number in whales becoming entangled in fishing lines and nets on the east coast, with 35 entanglements reported between May and September.  As humpback numbers increase we are likely to see more irregular flukes and other injuries. Photos left to right: Mindy Lewis, Gold Coast 2017 and Spirit of the Gold Coast 2019.
Whale volunteer
by Zoe Carnahan

Volunteering for Humpbacks and Highrises was an incredible experience. I volunteered because I love the ocean and find the migration of humpbacks whales and their behaviour interesting. I study Marine and Antarctica science, so volunteering allowed me to contribute to research of their behaviour during their migration, while I’m learning about the environment, they spend the other half of the year in. I got to experience firsthand how amazing humpback whales really were. I witnessed my first calf breach up close on my last trip out and amazed me that an animal of that size could jump out of the water. Being able to go out on the whale watching boats and research the behaviour of whales throughout their migration is a completely different experience than just going whale watching and I can’t wait to be able to volunteer again next year. 
Upcoming Events & volunteer opportunities

You can help making a difference and be part of our growing group of whale and dolphin researchers. 
  • Doco screening in November at Burleigh Heads Paperbark Cafe food and fun included. 
  • HHR annual general meeting and award ceremony with whale season summary held on the 5th December 2019.
  • Join our dedicated volunteer team and sign up for the 2020 whale season with the first training seminar held end of May 2020. Send us an e-mail to to register. 
  • 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 end of October 2019.
  • Want to be a learning how to collect and analyse whale behaviour and spend every day at sea? 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. 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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