Humpback whales sighted off Ballina coast
THE first humpback whales of the season have been spotted off the North Coast in recent weeks on their way to warmer waters for their annual east coast migration.
Marine mammal rescue and research organisation ORRCA said its first reported humpback sightings were made on April 14, with three of the massive marine mammals spotted off the Ballina coast in the morning and another one off Port Macquarie in the afternoon.
“It’s time to blow the dust of your binoculars and start looking for these magnificent animals heading north,” ORRCA said.
An even earlier sighting was posted by Cape Byron Lighthouse Friends and Volunteers on March 11.
“First couple of whales of the season reported to have been seen breaching off Cape Byron this morning,” the group posted.
Another early sighting was made on March 24, when a blow hole was spotted a few hundred metres off Brays Beach, Byron Bay.
The official whale watching season usually starts about June and continues until August, when the whales are migrating in large numbers.
The eastern Australian humpback whales, which pass close by Byron Bay each year, migrates along the east coast between their breeding grounds inside the Great Barrier Reef and their feeding grounds for krill in the cold Southern Antarctic Ocean.
The whole journey covers about 11,000km with the whales returning south to feed from late September to November.
The population of humpback whales is now estimated to be about 20,000, with an annual growth rate of about 10-11%.
During the 1960s the population was reduced to only a few hundred whales.