Great Australian Bight Marine Park protects a globally important calving and gathering area for endangered southern right whales.
Whales gather inshore here in winter, creating opportunities for whale watching from the coast.
The marine park extends across the continental shelf and far out to the deep ocean. The shelf is rich with seafloor marine life and small fishes.
Mirning and Wirangu people have responsibilities for sea country in the marine park.
The Great Australian Bight Marine Park is south of the Nullarbor Plain and adjacent to the South Australia Far West Coast and Nuyts Archipelago marine parks.
It covers 45,822 square kilometres, with depths from less than 15 metres to 6000 metres.
The marine park has National Park, Multiple Use, Special Purpose (Mining Exclusion) and Special Purpose zones.
Imagine seeing as many as 100 whales at once.
It’s a long drive across the Nullarbor to access this part of the coast, but the whale watching could well be worth it.
The best months for whale watching are from June to October, when whales gather to breed.
To protect Southern Right Whale breeding activity all vessels are prohibited from entering the Marine Mammal Protection Area at the head of the Bight between 1 May and 31 October. Open or download a map of the area.
There are visitor facilities and viewing platforms at Head of Bight, which look out toward the Great Australian Bight Marine Park.
Southern right whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction, but are now fully protected and are making a slow and steady recovery.
Scientists are keeping a close eye on the whales using long-term monitoring programs to track how populations are faring along the coast.
Each southern right whale has a unique pattern of bumps on its head, which means it can be identified from photographs.
Australian sea lions
Hunted to the verge of extinction, the endangered Australian sea lions refuge in the waters of the Great Australian Bight, with about 80% of the population found there.
To feed, the Australian sea lion dives deep, descending to the seafloor to prey on bottom dwelling fish, squid, rock lobster and even small sharks and rays.
The waters here support important feeding grounds, and sea lions travel hundreds of kilometres and swim up to five days without rest to get the marine park.
Back on the coast, they seek broad flat areas to rest, give birth and raise their young.
Some of these colonies can be found at the base of the Bunda Cliffs and since the 1990s, seasonal breeding surveys have been undertaken by South Australian Research and Development Institute to track their population health.
Until recently, these surveys have relied on binoculars, cameras and a lot of patience. However, in 2017 drones were introduced!
Inconveniences like 100 metre sheer cliff faces and rock ledges that obscured even the most eagle eyed researcher suddenly disappeared, replaced by increased accuracy and a much bigger survey capacity.
We’re working in partnership with the South Australian Department of Environment and Water to monitor populations using this innovative technology.
Take a look at this video of the recent survey season to find out more.
15 to 6,000 m
Download detailed map
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