Dataset: Behavioural response of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) to whale watching in south-west Western Australia.
We examined the behavioural responses of southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) encounters to whale watching vessels in King George Sound, Western Australia over three observation periods (before, during and after vessel encounters), providing the first assessment of southern right whale short-term responses to whale watching activities off the coast of Australia. Based on observations of 82 whales across 46 focal groups, we found that although whale behaviours did not differ significantly among the three observation periods, whales did exhibit some behavioural differences associated with the type and/or number of vessels that interacted with them. The activity that southern right whales were engaged in at the time of a whale watching encounter influenced variation in their behavioural response to these vessels. Our findings suggest that compliance with current Western Australian whale watching guidelines by commercial operators and recreational boat owners is providing adequate protection for southern right whales that utilise King George Sound.