Research has been carried out into swimming with whales tourism. Picture: Tourism and Events Queensland
Research has been carried out into swimming with whales tourism. Picture: Tourism and Events Queensland

Research into whale swims continues despite COVID

RESEARCH into the impact of swimming with whales has continued in Hervey Bay in 2020, despite the ongoing pandemic.

This week research associate Dr Kate Sprogis, part of the team at the Pacific Whale Foundation, reflected on the past year and how fortunate she was to be able to continue with the work that was being carried out, which focuses on improving practices in the growing industry.

"Twenty-twenty has been tough for so many researchers around the world and many research projects may have been halted," she said.

"We were very fortunate in Hervey Bay, Australia, that data, regarding the behavioural effects of swim-with-humpback whale tourism, could still be collected.

"This data is now being processed and analysed and written up in the hope to provide information to the Australian Government to limit any disturbance to whales in this important resting area."

The study was launched by the Pacific Whale Foundation in July, 2018.

According to its website, the purpose of the Swim-With-Whales Impact Study is to assess the impact of immersive whalewatching on humpback whales in Hervey Bay by monitoring and recording behaviours and behavioural changes before, during and after in-water encounters.

"Our objectives are to better understand if humpback whales change their behaviour due to in-water interactions with humans, identify factors which may influence behaviour change, and provide recommendations to governing authorities, resource managers, and tour operators to ensure that Hervey Bay's humpback whales are not negatively impacted by swim-with-whales tourism," the website reads.

"Findings will provide managers with insight into population parameters and habitat use as well as provide local tour operators with guidelines for best practices for this commercial activity."