Tourists having a whale of a time as humpbacks arrive early

Published: June 7, 2022

Grey nomads and other travellers on the east coast have been being treated to earlier-than-expected sightings of migrating whales.

Humpbacks travelling north from the Antarctic to the Great Barrier Reef have already been seen near Sydney and off the coast of Merimbula, Byron Bay, Tweed Heads, the Gold Coast and Hervey Bay.

Professor Mike Noad, director of the centre of marine studies at the University of Queensland, told the Guardian newspaper that the season usually peaks at the end of June and into July … but that the eastern Australian humpback whale population had been booming.

Back in the early 1960s it was estimated that only about 300 of the eastern Australian humpback whales remained. However, 60 years after commercial whaling was banned in the region, the population is now thought to sit at about 40,000.

“Around 20 years ago we’d get the first one or two whales coming through about Easter time, but there was around an eighth of the number of whales that there are now,” Professor Noad said. “So one or two at Easter time now becomes 16 or 30 … so every year that’s probably the same migration … it’s just there’s more whales in the population.”

Dr Wally Franklin, director of the Oceania Project, said the population growth had surprised researchers … and he said it might be due to the Great Barrier Reef being the ‘perfect location as a breeding area’.

He told the Guardian that researchers have found evidence that whales from other parts of the Pacific have migrated to eastern Australia.

“The benefit of it is that whale watchers along the coast of New South Wales and Queensland get to start seeing the whales earlier,” he said. “And they’ll see them longer.”

  • Have you spotted any migrating whales yet? Comment below.
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Pat Stagg
1 month ago

Arrawarra headland, near Coffs Harbour, two days ago saw one a big surprise

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