Esperance whale watching across the weekend

More than 100 people gathered at Castletown Quays on Sunday morning, June 10, to watch as a whale swam just metres from the shoreline.

The sighting was one of several reported across the weekend, with whales spotted at Castletown Quays, Kelp Beds and West Beach.

The Department of Fisheries confirmed it was contacted on Saturday, June 9, after a whale was believed to be caught in a net around 500 metres offshore at Kelp Beds.

Onlooker Jake Cracknell said he was packing his car after spending the day at Kelp Beds when his partner spotted the whale. 

“We were eight to 10 kilometres around Wylie Bay and we watched the whale come in and play around in the bay for a while,” he said.

“It did a couple of breaches and begun slapping around.

“We lost the whale for a moment and went back to the car before we heard several slaps and a loud bang.

“We turned around and could see the whale in one spot, throwing its head out of the water and then its tail.”

Mr Cracknell said the commotion continued for around 20 minutes before the whale managed to roll over and free itself.

“It was definitely distressed and let out this all-mighty whale cry and I contacted Fisheries,” he said.

“Two minutes after that, it swam just 20 metres offshore and begun heading towards Cape Le Grand.”

Although a concerned Facebook user posted that the animal may have been caught in netting, Mr Cracknell said it appeared the whale had become stuck on sand or on a reef.

It is estimated around 35,000 whales are currently making the annual migration from Antarctic waters to calving areas in the Kimberley.

On June 7 the state government announced 10 trackable buoys had been provided to specialist teams at several locations between Esperance and Broome to track the location of whales entangled in fishing gear.

The new technology would allow responders from the Parks and Wildlife Service to monitor the whale remotely before attempting a disentanglement.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said whales travelled through a number of commercial and recreational fisheries during migration and do occasionally become entangled in fishing gear.

“Whale disentanglements from lobster fishing gear have decreased from 17 in 2013 to six in 2017 due to gear modification and it is pleasing to see the rock lobster industry showing its commitment to protecting whales by funding these buoys.”

If you see a whale you believe to be in distress, contact the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ Esperance office on (08) 9083 2100.