The southern right whale is an endangered species with the total population estimated at around 12,000. This animal spends summer in the far southern ocean to feed before migrating north to breed in the winter, where it can be found off the coasts of South America, Australia, New Zealand, and southern Africa. Usually these animals enter these waters around June, however DWRC sighted the fist southern right whales of the season on 7th April off Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.
This change of migration is not an isolated incident, with reports of early whale migration in other parts of the world too. Research carried out by the Southwest Fisheries Science Centre in California reported that grey whales are delaying their migration due to a rise in ocean temperatures. This increase of temperature has disrupted the animals’ home habitat, resulting in the whales spending more time in the north before starting their yearly swim south.
The cause of this early migration was thought to be climate change, which supports the theory that the early migration of the southern right whale in South Africa is also due to climate change and global warming.
The DWRC is currently working in association with an organisation researching the effect that global warming is having on whale migration, and continue to contribute valuable findings and information to marine conservation in South Africa.