Incredibly rare 'megapod' of more than 100 humpback whales surrounds boat off coast of Australia

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CNN 14 September, 2021 - 06:48am 64 views

A "megapod" of more than 100 humpback whales has been filmed surrounding a boat off the coast of Australia -- an incredibly rare event an expert says has only ever been captured once before in the country's waters.

The whales skirted the boat near Bermagui, about 236 miles (380 kilometers) from Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, as they fed on a large bait ball -- a tightly packed school of fish swimming in a spherical shape.

Simon Millar, owner of Sapphire Coastal Adventures, was leading a team training exercise with his staff when they spotted the whales on September 9. In the video, the whales can be seen slapping their tails in the ocean, trying to herd the fish.

Millar said it was only the second time a mass aggregation of whales -- known as a "megapod" -- has ever been seen in Australian waters.

"It was incredible," he told CNN. "We saw the whales swimming all around the area. They were just everywhere. We were very lucky.

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"The sight and sound was really something."

Australia's coastline comes alive with pods of whales every year between April and November as they swim north from the Antarctic, where they spend their summers feeding, to sub-tropical waters, where they mate and give birth, according to Australia's Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

Their annual migration can cover up to 6,214 miles (10,000 kilometers), and attracts thousands of visitors to coastal towns like Byron Bay, Hervey Bay and Eden. The majority of humpbacks migrate back towards the Southern Ocean from September to November, the department said.

Millar said the whales he has seen this year have been feeding a lot more, possibly due to a shortage of food.

"We are depleting their food source in Antarctica by over fishing," he said.

David M. Baker, Associate Professor at the Swire Institute of Marine Science at the University of Hong Kong, said humans are "competing with (whales) directly for food," and we are changing where food is available "by altering the global climate."

"Global fisheries deplete the very things that whales eat, like schooling fish and krill and could severely undermine their recovery," he said. "Climate change is also impairing recovery of some species, including critically endangered right whales in the North Atlantic."

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Whale feeding frenzy off NSW south coast

Sky News Australia 14 September, 2021 - 07:40am

'Megapod' of humpback whales filmed feeding

RTE.ie 14 September, 2021 - 01:31am

Meáin Náisiúnta Seirbhíse Poiblí na hÉireann

A 'megapod' of more than 100 humpback whales were seen feeding off the coast of Australia last week as they migrate to Antarctica.

The group of whales were filmed by a local tour group operator as they worked together to feed on a large school of bait fish at Bermagui on the Sapphire Coast region of New South Wales.

From about September, humpback whales return to Antarctica from the warmer northern waters, where they raise their young.

"Last year, this exact same week, we had a mass aggregation of humpback whales," tour group operator Simon Miller said.

"So, what that is, is where you get a mega-pod and it's where you've got more than 20 whales at the time feeding on a particular area. And this is something that was first witnessed last year.

"We've been witnessing whales feeding on the south coast for maybe like, 18, 19 years... but we've never witnessed them feeding in such huge aggregations before," Mr Miller said.

© RTÉ 2021. RTÉ.ie is the website of Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland's National Public Service Media. RTÉ is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Super Pod of Over 80 Whales Spotted at Sapphire Coast in Australia's New South Wales

News18 13 September, 2021 - 10:24am

The latest development has evoked keen interest from researchers who are seeing this as an opportunity to learn more about the marine environment and find out the exact reason behind this occurrence. Speaking about it, whale expert Dr Vanessa Pirotta said while it’s still not clear as to why the mammals returned to the same spot for the second year in a row. The footage of the incident holds great scientific value for marine research. She added that it was a chance to find out if there was something significant going on environmentally.

Simon Miller, an executive of the tour company that recorded the clip, said that whales were feeding on baitfish and worked collaboratively to herd the bait into a tight-knit ball. He expressed pleasure over getting a chance to watch the visuals. A large part of the frenzy around the super pod in the scientific community was because of the visuals of the whale’s bubble net feeding.

Talking about this bubble net feeding process, Dr Pirtotta explained how the animals blow bubbles around their prey to catch them. She said that all the fishes that they are feeding on are scrambling to ball up tightly and then the whales come from underneath the water and engulf them by opening their throat like a slinky for the younger generation.

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Dr Pirotta added that the visuals may help researchers to determine whether Sapphire Coast is emerging as a significant area and if it was a spot of food break for whales before they go back to Antarctica.

Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here

Super Pod of Over 80 Whales Spotted at Sapphire Coast in Australia's New South Wales

DroneDJ 13 September, 2021 - 10:24am

The latest development has evoked keen interest from researchers who are seeing this as an opportunity to learn more about the marine environment and find out the exact reason behind this occurrence. Speaking about it, whale expert Dr Vanessa Pirotta said while it’s still not clear as to why the mammals returned to the same spot for the second year in a row. The footage of the incident holds great scientific value for marine research. She added that it was a chance to find out if there was something significant going on environmentally.

Simon Miller, an executive of the tour company that recorded the clip, said that whales were feeding on baitfish and worked collaboratively to herd the bait into a tight-knit ball. He expressed pleasure over getting a chance to watch the visuals. A large part of the frenzy around the super pod in the scientific community was because of the visuals of the whale’s bubble net feeding.

Talking about this bubble net feeding process, Dr Pirtotta explained how the animals blow bubbles around their prey to catch them. She said that all the fishes that they are feeding on are scrambling to ball up tightly and then the whales come from underneath the water and engulf them by opening their throat like a slinky for the younger generation.

Humpback Whales Change Their Songs Based on Geographical Environment: Study

59ft Whale Carcass Entangled in Fishing Net Washes Ashore In West Bengal's Bakkhali

Dr Pirotta added that the visuals may help researchers to determine whether Sapphire Coast is emerging as a significant area and if it was a spot of food break for whales before they go back to Antarctica.

Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here

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