Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whale Migration Route (SHHWMR)
Let's start with a bit of information about these magnificent marine mamals: humpback_whales.pdf
The SHHWMR (Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whale Migration Route) awareness celebrations had its beginning at the “Welcoming the Whales" Festival held in Port Elizabeth in 2018 and since then Raggy Charters has held another three of these festivals. With the 2020 and 2021 events being live streamed due to the Covid pandemic, nothing was going to stop us celebrating the arrival of these magnificent mammals to Algoa Bay !
(Click the posters to read more about each festival)
Lloyd and Raggy Charters Marine Guide Purity Khosa at the WW2 lookout keeping an eye out for whale activity. June 2019.
Besides welcoming the migratory whales there were plenty of other educational activities that made up the festival as can be seen elsewhere on this website (click the posters above). During his talk Lloyd Edwards pointed out how the humpback whales were hunted almost to extinction between 1908 and 1976 when the Durban whaling station was closed and most humpback whale hunting ceased in the Southern Hemisphere. As can be seen on the graph a simple paradigm shift in humans led to the remarkable recovery of this species that is today very close to its pre exploitation numbers.
Of course it was not only the humpback whales that suffered as a result of whaling but all of the large species. They have not recovered as quickly as the humpback but if we leave them alone they will eventually get there as well.
At present climate change, ship strikes, entanglements and plastic pollution are the main threats to these animals. It was because of these threats that Raggy Charters, under the banner of the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), decided to link communities together along the route of the migrating humpback whales. These communities were assisted by Raggy Charters and the WCA to hold similar whale festivals. During 2019 besides a lecture on the humpback whale migration, presentations were also given on marine plastic pollution and how it could be prevented.
In 2021 we discussed the entanglements in fishing gear. Due to public pressure, octopus traps were removed recently and modified and since then not a single whale has been caught. The same cannot be said about the crayfish trap gear and many Bryde's, Southern right and Humpback whales die a slow and agonising death.
Wanting to expand this idea a bit further than just to the folk of Port Elizabeth, in 2019 the South East Africa SEA Humpback Whale Migration Route was born. Lloyd initiated and assisted in setting up 17 whale festival / presentations all the way from Knysna in South Africa to Watamu in Kenya.
The WCA world whale conference held in 2019 in Hervey Bay, Australia presented the perfect platform to expand this concept even further and to include the whole of the humpback migration in the Southern Hemisphere. Lloyd travelled the entire Australian coast from Exmouth in the North West to Cooktown in the North East, some 20 000km. He then also did a similar tour of whale watching companies in North and South Island of New Zealand. To complete the route, WCA representatives were hoping to include Tonga, Argentina and Brazil. Unfortunately the Covid pandemic laid waste to these plans for 2020 and 2021. We look forward to this project coming alive in 2022.
The response to the East Coast Migration Festival Route in 2019 was overwhelming and this year we have expanded the route even further to become the Southern African Humpback Whale Migration Route to cover the West and East coasts of Africa. The longest migration for any mammal species.
According to the late legendary whale and dolphin researcher, Professor Peter Best, the “Northern migration of Humpback whales seems to reach the African coastline in the vicinity of Knysna”. It is obvious that this is the perfect place to start celebrating the arrival of these magnificent creatures.
The first event kicked off in Knysna on the 5th June 2021 and the ensuing 24 events followed, all the way to Swakopmund on the West coast and to Watamu in Kenya on the East coast. The longest migration of any mammal echoes the longest whale heritage route celebrated on the planet. The presentations at the events covered the entire migration. When the different groups pass, where they are heading, the birth and nursing of calves, the roles of the males, sub-adults and receptive females on the long journey home. The dangers these mammals face on the journey such as killer whale predators, ship strikes, entanglements and exhaustion caused by the lack of food resources. The route is a joint venture between the World Cetacean Alliance and Raggy Charters and other whale enthusiasts, sponsors and environmental groups along the African coastline.
Before Lloyd left he decided he needed a companion and thus "Fluke" was created. A life-size sub-adult humpback whale. "Fluke" was so warmly welcomed at every event. Thank you to Ursula Browne and Lake Farm Centre for bringing "Fluke" to life.
2021 Migration Route Festival Map
Well due to Covid-19 new level 4 regulations, "Fluke" and Lloyd had to adapt and re-route their migration slightly.. so for some fun and to the tunes of Joe Van Der Linden, here they are having fun and exposing "Fluke" to a very different habitat.. Can you guess where they are?