Encounter Bay Right Whale Study

“Connecting the community, scientists and managers for Southern Right Whale protection, conservation and education”

Southern Right Whales

Southern Right Whales (SRW) visit Australia each winter between May and November, traversing an incredible 3-5,000 km to congregate in local waters that are warmer than their summer feeding grounds in the sub-Antarctic. SRWs also congregate off the southern coasts of South Africa, South America and New Zealand during this time. 

In South Australia, whales have been known to frequent Encounter Bay each year. Although, Fowlers Bay and Head of the Bight boast larger numbers. Southern Right Whales congregate in these areas to give birth, nurse their young, mate and to socialise. 

This annual migration to South Australia is a key part of the whales’ breeding cycle. Females and their calves may reside in nursery areas for to 3-4 months. During this time the mothers are unable to feed on krill and plankton that thrive in the frigid waters of the sub-antarctic. Thus, it is important that whales have the opportunity to rest during this time, both to conserve energy and to care for their young.

Encounter Bay

Recognized as the waters that extend between Newland Head and the Murray Mouth. (On the southern coast of Victor Harbor and Alexandrina councils.) Encounter Bay is currently listed as an ’emerging’ calving aggregation area for Southern Right Whales.* A status that assumes less than 3 calves are born at or near the Bay each year.

However, locally collected data shows that there are now more than 3 calves per year born in our waters, with the average for Encounter Bay equating to 5 calves per year.  This increased number advocates a potential upgrade in status. A change that would see Encounter Bay listed as an ‘established’ aggregation area. Allowing for better protection of Southern Right Whales and acknowledging the Bay as a critical area for the protection of this endangered species.


The Encounter Bay Right Whale Study (EBRWS) is a citizen science project designed to research and monitor Southern Right Whales within Encounter Bay.

Objectives of the EBRWS are achieved via:

  • Establishing a local Encounter Bay (EB) photo-identification catalogue.

  • Contributing data to national SRW assessments.

  • Investigating abundance, residency, distribution and movements of SRW in the EB area.

  • Assessing the connectivity and movement of SRW from EB with the other calving/aggregation areas across South Australia.

Thus ensuring the conservation management and protection of whales in our waters.

How can you contribute?

Our citizen scientists goal is to collect clear photos of the top and both sides of the whale’s head. This provides a complete visual map of the individuals unique callosity pattern.

EBRWS | Image of the left side of the whale's head
Left Side
EBRWS | Image of the top of the whale's head
Top Side
EBRWS | Image of the right side of the whale's head
Right Side

If you have clear identifying photos of a Southern Right Whale, the EBRWS team at the SA Whale Centre would love to hear from you.

Please contact them via:
Ph: (08) 8551 0750 Email:


            SRW Photo-ID Catalogue

Empty Callosity Map

Empty Callosity Data Sheet

Data Entry Interpretation Sheet

BigFish Callosity Matching Instructions 

Encounter Bay Right Whale Research Brochure 2018

*Under the National Conservation Management Plan for the Southern Right Whale 2011-2021.