All eyes on the sea for the whale migration

MIGRATING humpback whales can now be seen from Cape Byron, and in just a few weeks watchers will be guaranteed a sighting from the headland.

And all eyes will be looking out for the rare all-white humpback Migaloo, who is the only documented hypo-pigmented, or albino, whale of its kind in the world.

Associate Professor Peter Harrison, director of the Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre, said they had received reports of sightings of whales at Byron Bay 10 days ago, and Coffs Harbour more recently.

"We've been getting increasing reports of small numbers of whales travelling along the coastline over the last couple of weeks," Prof Harrison said.

"That's not surprising.

"We're expecting about 10,000, which seems like a huge number, but is only about one-third of the original population."

Small groups of whales, travelling from the Antarctic to the Great Barrier Reef for breeding and giving birth, will build in numbers leading up to their peak migration period at the end of June and beginning of July.

Prof Harrison said researchers were not sure yet where Migaloo was, but that they expected to hear of a sighting in a few weeks.

"He's a regular migrator. We expect to hear something soon," he said.

Cetaceans painter and activist Howie Cooke, of Ocean Shores, also expects Migaloo to be spotted soon.

"He's the whale that everybody looks out for because he's so easily identified," he said.

Mr Cooke said Migaloo was a symbol for the Humpback Icon Project, which involved communities adopting and naming whales to help with their conservation.

"Migaloo we decided should not be adopted because he is an icon whale of the whole migration," he said.

"He's like the flagship whale of the eastern seaboard.

"Although he doesn't lead the migration, he does symbolically head the conservation campaign.

Mr Cooke is co-founder of Surfers for Cetaceans (S4C), which next month plans to make headlines around whale and dolphin issues by meeting with surfers, marine scientists, politicians, artists and school children in Chile in the lead-up to the International Whaling Commission meeting.

They will be introducing the Humpback Icon Project and the Visual Petition to communities along the Chilean coast, supporting the Chile Whale Sanctuary proposal and calling on Chile's support for Australian humpbacks under threat from Japanese factory ship whaling.

S4C is calling for any financial help or support in kind. For more information visit www.surfersforcetaceans.com.

Mr Cooke will be also holding an open studio exhibition of his paintings and prints at South Golden Beach on the weekend of May 23.


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