Mother and baby Sei Whale sighted by Silversonic
Passengers and crew aboard our Port Douglas-based dive and snorkel vessel Silversonic were excited to see a mother and baby Sei Whale on the homeward journey from the reef.
The Sei Whales, which remain on the endangered species list, were seen south of St Crispin Reef. Shane Down, Silversonic’s skipper said, “The adult was about 18 metres long and the calf 12 metres long. It appeared they were feeding and the mother was some 400 metres away while the young calf approached within 100 metres the vessel. The young calf was swimming back and forth on the same track which indicated it was feeding and there were also a number of tuna in the area which eat similar food sources. We are starting to see them every year now just after New Year when the conditions are calm”.
Quicksilver marine biologist and Environment Compliance Manager, Doug Baird, said they are quite inquisitive creatures and the key to identifying a Sei Whale is through the distinguishing feature of a single ridge extending from the blowholes to the tip of the upper jaw.
Silversonic had first recorded sighting one of these rare whales in January 2008.
The Sei (pronounced “say”) Whales are among the more elusive of the large whales and are rarely seen inshore preferring the deeper oceans. They are one of the fastest whales with bursts of speed up to 55km/hr. The Sei Whale is very similar in appearance to the Fin and Brydes whales being long, streamlined and having a V – shaped head which is flat on top.
Growing up to 20 metres and 30 tonnes, they are the third largest of the baleen whales, after the Blue Whale and the Fin Whale. Their body is dark grey with a paler underside. It has twin blowholes with a low splashguard to the front.
The Sei Whale is a filter feeder, feeding on small schooling fish, squid and crustaceans. It feeds by swimming at a relatively high speed, opening its jaw which causes it to engulf up to 18,000 gallons of water. It then closes its jaw and pushes the water back out its mouth through the baleen, allowing the water to leave while trapping the prey. They can consume up to 2 tons of food per day.
In general, the Sei whale migrates annually from cool and subpolar waters in summer to temperate and subtropical waters for winter, where food is more abundant and mating occurs.
The Sei Whale is on the endangered species list with reports of less than 54,000 in the world.