A humpback whale and calf were injured after colliding with a ferry in Sydney Harbor. Aerial footage showed the adult female humpback with a wound near its dorsal fin and its calf with a long gash.
According to eyewitnesses, the pair were hit by a propeller blade of The Collaroy running the 8.40 a.m. Circular Quay to Manly service. According to the Daily Mail, The Collaroy was traveling through the harbor's western channel off the Clifton Gardens area when the incident occurred.
The Daily Mail reports a warning had been issued earlier that whales were in the area. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the 9.40 a.m. Manly to Circular Quay service was cancelled.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Richard Ford of the group Whale Watching Sydney, witnessed the incident. According to Ford: "[The captain] said it just popped up in front of the ferry; there was nothing the ferry could do to avoid it. It popped up so close that the ferry wouldn't have had any time... to do anything."
Geoff Ros, National Parks and Wildlife Service coordinator of marine and fauna programs, said the mother and calf seemed to be making recovery. The calf was seen swimming close to its mother as they continued their migration. Ross said: "We've been monitoring the calf all morning... and it's now swimming north. They do have amazing powers of recuperation, so in all likelihood the animals will recover. The [calf] appears to be swimming well and swimming close to mum's side so with a bit more love and some breastfeeding, I think it will be fine."
Ross said that a whale watching boat and a NPWS vessel were tracking the mammals, The Global Post reports. He said: "We have information that suggests that a ferry may have collided with something in the harbor this morning and we have an injured humpback. The injuries seem to minor at this stage."
According to ABC Australia, Lawrence Orel from the National Parks and Wildlife Services said the whale calf is expected to survive. He said: "There is quite a substantial gash on the right hand flank of the calf. It certainly slashed through the blubber layer. But there isn't an awful lot of blood and the animal is moving quite freely and is still with its mother so all of those are good signs that this individual will survive. Boaties are reminded at this time of year to be extra careful, particularly in the sheltered areas where we do like to boat, but that's also where mothers and calves like to rest as they begin their migration."
Sydney Ferries reports crews keep an extra look-out for whales during migration season, including having an extra deck hand on the bridge.
The New South Wales Department of Heritage and Environment later tweeted that the whales had left the Sydney Harbor area. The tweet said: "Still moving freely. Hopefully will survive with just a nasty scar. Because they have a thick layer of blubber, any damage from a propeller usually doesn't impact on the muscle tissue."
A statement by Harbour City Ferries said the master of The Collaroy ferrry and the deckhand did not see what the boat hit and the passengers did not report anything to the crew.
According to the Global Post, Humpbacks are seen off Australia's coast regularly at this time of the year making the annual winter migration from Antarctica to warmers waters. The whale and calf were migrating northwards to the Coral Sea where Humpbacks give birth and mate from April to mid-August. They swim north, taking advantage of the Inshore Northern current. The whales come close to the shore because the current is found only within three nautical miles of the coast. When the currents are strong close to shore, a pod may enter the Harbor briefly but they usually leave within a few hours and only occasionally venture far from the Harbor entrance.
The incident comes five days after a whale was found washed up in a public Sydney beachside pool.