In January each year, a tiny, remote coastal town known as Bremer Bay becomes both a tourism and scientific hub as the killer whaless start their annual pilgrimage to the Bremer canyon systems which run just off the continental shelf of Australia. Located 50km off-shore is a biological hotspot where 95/100 days in 2019 Naturaliste Charters encountered the oceans apex predators on their daily expeditions right up until the end of April. This flourishing ecosystem is one of the most unique, diverse and scientifically undiscovered phenomena on the globe. The area in which tourism operators frequent is roughly 3nm wide and encapsulates the largest population of killer whales in the southern hemisphere.
Why are the killer whales here?
Where the killer whales are before they arrive and where they go when they leave the Bremer canyons are two of many unanswered questions that we have yet to uncover. However, the reason over 9 family pods of orca populate this diverse abyssal ecosystem can be put quite simply…
The area is driven by multiple oceanic currents that help force nutrients from the depths into the top 200m of the water also known as the (“photic zone”). The system is catalysed by methane hydrate deposits which seep from the seafloor resulting in the rapid production of microscopic algae called (“phytoplankton”), which is the driver of the entire ecosystem. Therefore, for 4 months of the year an array of species from microscopic organisms through to fish, mammals and the killer whales use the canyon systems as a feeding area.
The area is located deep into the Southern Ocean it is extremely remote and for the most part unexplored making it an area of high scientific and cinematic interest. Every year scientific discoveries are made as a diverse range of species are uncovered in the area for the first time, from rare birds to unusual marine mammals and everything in between.
Who uncovered the area?
Dave Riggs was one of the founding members who uncovered the canyons potential back in 2002, whist doing tuna surveys off the continental shelf. Riggs sighted orca fins on multiple occasions before successfully confirming the sightings though photo identification the following year. Since then Riggs has developed two critically acclaimed films, one of which being discovery channel’s shark week favourite “Search for the oceans super predator”.
Now the question you’ve all been waiting for…
When is the best time to come to Bremer Bay?
There is no one day that is better than the next as each day and month in the canyon is so diverse to the one prior. The chance of witnessing a killer whale predation is quite high as the animals must eat up to 5% of their body weight daily, which amongst one family pod actuates to 2 tonne of meat each day. As the season progresses the canyons dynamics shift. Migratory marine mammal species utilise the area for varied purposes, such as sperm whales who use the area as a feeding, breeding and nursing area in the later months from March-April. We also encounter dolphins, long-finned pilot whales and false killer whales in mega pods of over 1000 individuals, sun fish and beaked whales throughout the season. Experience world class killer whale watching in Western Australia with Naturaliste Charters today.
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