DUNSBOROUGH resident Keith Yelverton got a “bit of a shock” when he was out on the bay last week.
He spotted two whales between his boat and the Busselton Jetty.
“It’s very early to see whales in the bay,” he said.
“They were some distance from me, but I’d say they were humpbacks.
“They looked very healthy and were heading in the direction of the Cape. They were just like a couple of logs in the water.”
Paul Szczypior, the owner-operator of All Sea Charters, which conducts whale watching tours in the South West, said the photos were not clear enough to identify what type of whale they were with 100 per cent certainty.
“But if they were humpbacks, then it was extremely early for them.
“One photo would suggest a humpback but the second one suggests different behaviour, not common in humpbacks,” he said.
“For whales to be seen this close in though, I would still go with them being humpbacks.
“Reliable sources tell me it’s due to the warmer waters and possibly the changing currents bringing their food in a lot closer to shore.
“Seven whales have already been sighted in Augusta and we saw a blue whale three weeks ago off Siesta Park, which is not uncommon, but after last week’s report of a Whale Shark in Rockingham, at this stage anything is possible.”
Paul added that it was unusual for whales to be sighted this early in the year.
“Whale migration is not due until late May, with the whales starting to head north around this time,” he said.
“This is when we usually start our tours out of Augusta. The whales are usually not seen in Busselton until later on in the year, in late August early September, when they start to head back down south in search of the cooler waters.
“If this pattern continues and more and more whales are seen this early and so far north, we could start to see them head back down south a lot earlier and we may even see residents all year round in the Augusta area.
“Keeping in mind it is not only the whales that are showing a change in their migratory habits. Large game fish such as mackerel are being seen as far down as Albany and dolphin populations in Koombana Bay are at an all time high. Red Emperor are also being caught off the Cape and Mahi Mahi in local deeper waters.
“The waters have been changing for a number of years and now that the larger marine animals are being sighted at odd times it is becoming more and more evident that global warming and climate change is slowly taking its toll on our surrounding environment.”