Mother and calf southern right whales expected to take a breather in Sydney Harbour this weekend

Sydneysiders may be welcoming 2 very rare and special visitors this weekend as the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) waits to see if a mother-calf pair of southern right whales will stop in for a rest in Sydney Harbour over coming days.

Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) and calf

NPWS Marine Wildlife Team Member Andy Marshall said the Service has been tracking the mother and calf pair since 27 July, when the 2 were spotted together for the first time off Coffs Harbour.

"We believe the calf was born around the 2 July and over the past fortnight, mother and baby have been spotted resting and nursing at Coffs Harbour, Scott's Head, Port Macquarie, Forster, Port Stephens, and Swansea on their leisurely south-bound journey," said Mr Marshall.

"Continuing their current trajectory, we expect the pair to reach Sydney sometime this weekend," said Mr Marshall.

Quiet, undisturbed time in shallow, sandy bottom bays and protected beaches is a critical part of life for southern right whale calves. At approximately 3-to-4 weeks old, this calf needs to nurse and consume around 300 litres of milk per day to gain the strength necessary for the long and treacherous swim back towards the Antarctic.

"We know how exciting it is to see a southern right whale and its calf up close, but we're asking everyone to please keep your distance. The biggest threat to the survival of southern right whales in NSW waters is disturbance from people getting too close," said Mr Marshall.

"Approaching the pair in a boat, with a drone or on a jet ski, kayak, or surfboard not only compromises a calf's ability to nurse and get the sustenance it needs to grow, but it can also drive the whales away from their shallow resting places and out into deeper waters, where they are exposed to predation by orcas and sharks.

"All watercraft, including vessels, surfers, jet skis must stay at least 300 m away from the pair in all directions. Drones are strictly prohibited within 100 m of the whales, in all directions.

"The best way to catch a glimpse of the whales is from one of Sydney's beautiful headland vantage points. That way, you can enjoy the incredible sight without impacting the animals.

"If you're lucky enough to see this pair, or another southern right whale, in coming weeks, we ask that you please immediately contact NPWS on 13000PARKS or ORRCA on 02 9415 3333.

"NPWS will be out on the water over the weekend, working closely with ORRCA, Marine Rescue, Transport for NSW and the Water Police to ensure our whale friends are safe and all water users are abiding by approach distance regulations," said Mr Marshall.

Southern right whales are an endangered species, with less than 270 in the south-east Australian population. This calf is one of only 2 calves recorded in New South Wales this year.

For more information, visit Approaching marine mammals in NSW.

Images for media: Dropbox