Get out and watch a whale

THE official start of winter also marks the official start of the whale watching season.

And this year more than 16,000 humpback whales are expected to pass by the North Coast, so there will be plenty of opportunities to see these giant creatures.

Keen-eyed locals have already spotted some whales heading north to warmer waters to breed.

Byron Bay-based whale experts Wally and Trish Franklin are Southern Cross University PhD students and also run the Oceania Project.

Mr Franklin urged people to get out and enjoy these "amazing creatures" during the migration.

"I haven't seen any whales yet myself, but I am getting almost daily reports from other people," he said.

"Cape Byron is probably one of the best land-based whale watching spots in the world.

"And we're rolling right into the peak period.

"From here on, we'll see a steady stream of whales through June and July as they head up to mate and breed in the lagoons of the Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Franklin said more than 16,000 whales were expected to make the journey this year - an increase of about 1000 from last year.

He said that while numbers had been increasing steadily each year, it would still take several decades to reach the pre-whaling population level.

"We're very lucky to live here and be able to watch the whales in their natural environment," Mr Franklin said.

"They do tend to come in quite close to the coast.

"But it's important to remind people in boats that many of these whales are young and making the journey for the first time.

"On the way back, there will be young calves.

"So it is important to give the whales plenty of room."

Australian Museum

HUMPBACK FACTS

  • Length: Adults 14m to 18m; Calves 4m to 5m at birth
  • Weight: Adults up to 50 tonnes; calves two tonnes at birth
  • Cruising speed: 8 km/h
  • Protected since 1965



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