Early start to whale watch season

The first Humpback Whales of the season have been spotted off the coast.
The first Humpback Whales of the season have been spotted off the coast.

OUR waters are once again a wonderland for humpback whales with the first reported sightings already made off the North Coast of NSW.

Whale watchers are spotting pods ploughing their way up the coast to breed in unseasonally warmer waters.

Marine biologists have also confirmed the humpbacks’ northern migration is happening earlier each year as the population frequenting the east coast ‘highway’ grows.

“This is sooner than we would expect to be seeing humpbacks here,” said Southern Cross University researcher Dan Burns.

“Usually we see the first pregnant female humpbacks arrive in May but out of season sightings are becoming more common.

“While we can’t say this is due solely to the warmer ocean temperatures recorded this year, a number of other factors are also thought to contribute to this including the growing size of the Humpback colony, ice movements in the Antarctic and the patterns of their prey species, krill and plankton,” he said.

Glen Storrie of the National Parks and Wildlife Service confirmed the early sightings, welcoming the first of the season at Woolgoolga’s ‘Whale Watch Headland’.

He said the timing couldn’t have been better for holidaymakers who this week have the chance of a rare glimpse so early in the year.

Traditionally, June and July are the peak months for whale watching movements while the season usually runs from May to November.

During their last count from Cape Byron in 2008, SCU Whale Centre researchers spotted 124 whales in one day. Since whaling was phased out in the 1960s, humpback numbers have slowly recovered. Scientists believe up to 11,000 giants of the deep now migrate to warmer waters off Queensland.

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