An exceptionally wet and windy winter is “wreaking havoc” on Albany’s whale-watching industry. Rough seas and fresh water flowing into the ocean from land have produced what Albany Ocean Adventures tour operator Paul Guest called “one of the hardest years” in his 23 years in the job. July would normally be a busy period for local tour operators, but Mr Guest said it was nothing like a typical year. “Last year during school holidays we were doing two trips every day and this year we did four trips all up,” he said. “We have done eight trips so far this July, and four of those trips have been on the same two days. “The weather is just wreaking havoc. “Looking at the forecast, I don’t even think we will be working until after next Sunday.” While the wind and rain are making it too rough for tours on most days, he said there was another, longer lasting weather challenge this year. “The rain has actually filled King George Sound with dirty water so the whales are staying out a bit, so you have to go further out to see them,” Mr Guest said. “A couple of times we have had them in Frenchman Bay but there is a little (bit) of dirty water out wide, so the whales, even the humpbacks, are coming in and hitting that dirty water and staying out of the sound. “People are sitting on the top of Marine Drive and commenting that they have seen very few whales inside the sound this year.” The boundary of the fresh water extending into the sea — sometimes called the “Moses Line” — has been visible from Marine Drive on calmer days in the past month. South Coast Cetaceans marine biologist Kirsty Alexander said she was not aware of any studies examining the impact of fresh water on whale distribution, but the run-off was extending much further out to sea than normal. “Catchment run-off has high sediment loads, and any surfer will tell you it’s also freezing cold compared to oceanic water,” she said. “It’s possible that areas with poor visibility may be avoided as whales do not echo-locate, they rely or visual and auditory cues to navigate their environment. “Southern right whale calves born along our coast at this time of year do not have the thick blubber layer that insulates adults so it’s possible cold river outflows may be avoided by females with young calves.” Whale season lasts until October on the south coast, with humpback whales making way for southern right whales later in the season. Mr Guest said there was still time left for the season to turn around. “When we are out there we are seeing whales — one jumped out and one threw its tail out of the water,” he said. “We are hoping we’ll get the southern rights, which normally come into King George Sound and Middleton Beach and Gull Rock but all that dirty water could affect them,” he said.