Eden locals are being encouraged to help fellow whale watchers spot a whale this season, by logging sightings on the Wild About Whales smartphone app.
Developed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) early last year, the app is the first official guide to whale-watching in NSW, and is available as a free download from the Apple and Google Play stores.
NPWS cetacean expert Geoff Ross says the revolutionary app is a great tool for both researchers and the casual opportunist.
“The app was developed to give us up-to-date information about where whales are being seen, and as soon as someone logs a sighting, that information is uploaded straight to the web,” he said.
“It not only helps us to track their movements, but it allows everyone with access to the internet or a smartphone to know whereabouts to position themselves for a sighting.
“We’re even getting details right down to the species of whale, which is fantastic.”
With the National Whale Census Day coming up on June 29, Mr Ross recommends downloading the app now on the off-chance of a sighting.
While no local organisations are holding surveys or events as part of the day due to the low numbers of whales seen around Eden during the northern migration, Mr Ross said the app will prove very popular during the southern migration later this year.
He will again make the trip down from Bundeena for November’s Eden Whale Festival, and says this year’s whale-watching season is forecast to be the largest and longest in 50 years.
“Each year gets a bit better than the year before, and we’re already up on the same time last year in terms of sightings,” he said.
“We know that the population of whales is increasing by 10 to 14 per cent, so we’re seeing an increase of a few hundred whales every year, and we’re seeing more southern rights now than we ever have.
“The southern migration is always the best time to see whales in Eden, but we encourage anyone who spots a whale on the census day to log the sighting using the app.
“[NPWS] work very closely with ORRCA, who run the day, and all the information collected on the day goes into their database.”
Mr Ross also had a message for recreational boaters, asking them to be mindful of whales during the migration period.
“We ask everyone to please adhere to the legal distance laws that are in place, for both your own safety and that of the whales,” he said.
“If you’re not aware of these regulations, they are available on our website, and we ask that anyone doing any recreational boating around this time of year to have a look in case they come across whales while they’re out on the water.”