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Sydney ferry 'hits whales in harbour'

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A humpback whale and her calf were left injured after a collision with a ferry in Sydney Harbour this morning, with a witness saying the animals suddenly popped up in front of the boat.

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'There was nothing the ferry could do'

A humpback whale is left injured after a collision with a ferry in Sydney Harbour on Monday morning.

The Collaroy, which was operating the 8.40am service from Circular Quay to Manly this morning, hit an unknown object, damaging its propeller blade.

Aerial footage later identified a female humpback whale with a wound near its dorsal fin, and its calf with an 80-centimetre gash.

Richard Ford, of Whale Watching Sydney, told smh.com.au one of his boat captains saw the ferry collide with one of the whales.

"Then we saw the whale spend a little bit of time on the surface and then start swimming again.


"We all knew the whales were around there and an alert had come out earlier on the radio, so we knew the whales were in the vicinity and everyone was keeping a watch out.

"[The captain] said it just popped up in front of the ferry; there was nothing the ferry could do to avoid it.

"It popped up so close that the ferry wouldn't have had any time ... to do anything."

The Collaroy was in the harbour's western channel when the incident occurred off the Clifton Gardens area.

Geoff Ross, of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, said the whales appeared to be fine.

"We've been monitoring the calf all morning ... and it's now swimming north.

They do have amazing powers of recuperation, so in all likelihood the animals will recover.

"They do have amazing powers of recuperation, so in all likelihood the animals will recover.

"The [calf] appears to be swimming well and swimming close to mum's side so with a bit more love and some breastfeeding, I think it will be fine." 

The NSW Department of Heritage and Environment said on its Twitter feed that the whale and her calf had left Sydney Harbour.

"Still moving freely. Hopefully will survive with just a nasty scar," it said.

Mr Ross said the adult humpback could grow to 14 metres and weigh up to 40 tonnes.

He estimated the calf to be three metres in length and weighing up to three tonnes.

"Because they have a thick layer of blubber, any damage from a propeller usually doesn't impact on the muscle tissue."

A statement from Harbour City Ferries said the master of the Collaroy ferry and the deckhand did not see what the boat hit and no passengers reported anything to the crew.

It said the ferry had been withdrawn from service and taken to Balmain for assessment.

The 9.40am Manly to Circular Quay service was cancelled, but no other services were impacted, the statement said.

As this is whale season, masters and crew of all vessels keep an extra watch for whales, including having a deckhand on the bridge as an extra pair of eyes, the statement said.

A spokesman for Harbour Sydney Ferries said divers had inspected the ferry, which had a bent propeller.

The incident comes after a 10-metre, 20-tonne male humpback was found dead in an ocean pool at Newport Beach, north of Sydney, last week.

smh.com.au and AAP

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