First whales sighted off Byron

THE first whales of the season were spotted off Byron Bay last week, making their annual northerly migration up the East Coast.

Byron Bay Whale Watching skipper Peter Rullin said he spotted two humpback whales near Julian Rocks, leading the migration.

"That's really early for us. Normally we don't see them for another week or two," he said,

"There are estimates there's about 16,500 to 17,000 individuals that migrate up the East Coast , and those numbers are always increasing.

"Hopefully we'll see Migaloo again this year. He's the albino that travels with the East Coast population."

The annual whale watching season usually takes place from June to August, when the whales are migrating north in larger numbers.

The Eastern Australian humpback whales, which pass Byron Bay each year, migrate from the cold and krill-abundant Antarctic waters to the warmer Great Barrier Reef to breed.

The journey covers about 11,000km, with the whales returning to feed, heading south late September to November.

Blue Bay Whale Watching director Christina Gray said she expected sightings to increase before the season officially opened next month.

"In May we normally get the first whale sighting and they just get more and more often, and in June we usually start our whale watching tours," she said.

"It's not unusual to see them now but they're usually travelling away from shore on their way north.

"The best place to spot them is 8-10km offshore.

"If you can't go out on a boat, the best spot to see them is the lighthouse."

About Humpback whales

  • They are thought to use landmarks to navigate during migrations.
  • They grow to about 16m and weigh up to 50 tonnes.
  • Can swim at an average speed of 3-4 knots (5-7kmh).
  • The name humpback describes the way they arch their backs before diving.
  • Their scientific name Megaptera means 'great wing', describing the unusually long pectoral fin.
  • The male humpback whale is well known for its 20-30-minute song that changes each season.
  • Humpbacks are known as the most playful whales.

SOURCE: Blue Bay Whale Watching and Byron Bay Whale Watching

Topics:  cape byron humpback whales whales

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