Whale watchers were treated to a rare visit by three killer whales, including a calf, off Wollongong on Sunday.
The trio was spotted by whale enthusiast Susan Finley and her husband Mark.
‘‘They were swimming just offshore near Flagstaff Hill near the old lighthouse; they were there for about an hour,’’ she said.
Humpback whales completing their annual southern migration are a common sight but orcas are seldom seen in the Illawarra.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife marine fauna program co-ordinator Geoff Ross said it was extremely rare for orcas to venture this far north from Antarctica. ‘‘They are most likely trying to intercept the southern humpbacks with their calves on their way back down to feeding grounds in Antarctica,’’ he said.
Orca packs tend to specialise in hunting specific types of animals, living up to their ‘‘killer’’ name.
‘‘This group may have initially been following the seal population and then found the humpbacks,’’ Mr Ross said.
‘‘If a pack is able to hunt seals then they can definitely hunt other whales.’’
The humpbacks venture north to mate and breed in warmer waters before migrating going back to Antarctica.
‘‘The older males are escorting the females with calves, so they’re moving at a slower pace meaning they’re more easily spotted but also more vulnerable,’’ he said.
UOW Associate Professor Andy Davis said there had been visible growth in population numbers for whales and seals in the region.
‘‘It’s basically a recovery from the whaling industry and seal hunting in the 1800-1900s,’’ he said. According to Prof Davis, the best place to whale watch is from a high point on a still day.
‘‘Get to anywhere high, Hill 60 and the Royal National Park are good places and look for the spouts of spray,’’ he said.
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