Extent of whale and dolphin watching
The whale watching industry has expanded nationally and attracts large numbers of tourists to coastal towns around Australia. From the late 1960s, the number of whale watchers in Australia has continually risen, with over 1.5 million people watching whales in 20081. Forty five species of whales and dolphins live in or migrate through Australian waters. The vast coastline of Australia includes many different types of coastal habitat and there are opportunities to watch whales from land, by boat, or from the air.
Target species, peak times of year and locations:
Dolphin watching tends to occur all year round and is focused on six species. Most whale watching activities are based around the migration of southern right and humpback whales each year from June until November and May until November, respectively. The species most often observed during whale and dolphin watching activities are listed below. Information on these species is available at http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine-species/cetaceans/whale-and-dolphin-watching.
- Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) – June-November
- Southern Right whale (Eubalaena australis) – May-November
- Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) – November-May
- Dwarf Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata unnamed sub-species) – June-August
- Killer whale (Orcinus orca) – year-round
- Common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) – year-round
- Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) – year-round
- Australian humpback dolphin (Sousa sahulensis) – year-round
- Australian snubfin dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni) – year-round
- Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) – year-round
- Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) – year-round
The Australian Government has conducted extensive research to identify and define Biologically Important Areas for marine mammals and other marine species. Visitors who are interested in learning about specific habitats for different whale and dolphin species can use an interactive map to explore what these habitats are for different species (click on “whales” or “inshore dolphins” on the menu bar on the left and use the “+” drop down menu to select the desired species).