As we welcome the humpback whales back to our shores, Griffith Centre for Coastal Management and Sea World Cruises are launching a new partnership to further our understanding of whales and their role in marine ecosystems.

The Griffith Centre for Coastal Management develops expertise to counter major coastal challenges, including rapid urban development and climate-related impacts throughout the Asia—Pacific region.

Dr Olaf Meynecke, a key whale researcher at the GCCM.

Sea World Cruises is Australia’s premier whale watching tourism operator conducting multiple tours per day on its environmentally friendly fleet of purpose-built whale watching vessels which offer the opportunity to gather invaluable data on migrating whales.

Despite current protections, whales continue to face threats in Australian waters including acoustic disturbance, entanglement in marine debris and fishing gear, collisions with ships, ingestion of rubbish and environmental change as a result of global warming.

“The partnership between Griffith Centre for Coastal Management (GCCM) and Sea World Cruises is a research collaboration that allows a two-way exchange of data on behaviour, imagery and intellectual property to expand scientific knowledge of these seasonal visitors,” said Dr Olaf Meynecke, a key whale researcher at the GCCM.

“Researchers will be guaranteed places on-board Sea World Cruises vessels to undertake typically cost-prohibitive long-term monitoring and will also receive in-kind and technical support to run dedicated projects,” said Anthony Ardern, Sea World Cruises manager.

“We know so little about our oceans, this partnership is a unique opportunity to foster a more in-depth understanding of whales in our region,” Dr Meynecke said.

“Focus areas include assessing future impacts of climate change on the migration and the use of the Gold Coast Bay as suitable calving habitat for newborns.”

The overarching goal is to derive new management strategies for better conservation and protection of marine mammals in urbanised coastal waters and for the Gold Coast to become a global hub for marine megafauna science.

“The economic pressure of Coronavirus is going to impact research capabilities for years to come,” Dr Meynecke said. “Partnerships like this one between industry and universities are more important than ever in these challenging times.”

“The sustainability of whale watching as an industry is dependent on healthy whales and healthy oceans,” Mr Arden said.

“This partnership recognises that strong science underpins good environmental management, and demonstrates our commitment as a tourism operator to contribute to the conservation of this remarkable species.”

The collaboration will also facilitate community engagement, exposing locals and visitors marine megafauna science and meet the researchers during Sea World Cruises whale watching tours.