Is Migaloo doing his bit to boost whale numbers?

A BLACK and white humpback whale has been sighted 15km off the Byron Bay coastline by local fisherman Ken Smith and his deckhand Robert Woolcott.

President of the Byron Bay Deep Sea Fishing Club, Mr Smith, of Ewingsdale, was heading to fishing grounds earlier this week when he saw a whale in the distance.

“We often see whales beside the boat,” Mr Smith said. “They roll over and flap their flippers and get the sun on their belly.”

“This one leapt from the water like he was pleased to see us.”

Mr Smith didn't realise how unusual the whale was until Mr Woolcott pointed it out.

“My deckie said 'it's white!',” Mr Smith said.

“It was a fabulous experience. It was like it came looking for us.

“The whale was alone and he appeared to be about three-quarters grown.”

Something else that surprised Mr Smith was the direction in which the whale was travelling.

“It went from east to west, before heading south, which is unusual.”

Dan Burns, a PhD student at Southern Cross University, has been involved in research aimed at indentifying whales based on photographs. He said the sighting was interesting.

“There are some like this (white), but not many,” Mr Burns said.

“It is unique.”

There are several reasons for the whales colouring, including a skin condition. Mr Burns would like to carry out further research to discover if the new whale is related to another famous humpback whale, the all-white Migaloo.

“If we can get a skin sample of this whale, or any of those that are largely white, we could see if Migaloo has been breeding,” he said.

Mr Smith would like to see the whale adopted by the people of Byron Bay.

“Byron Bay is unique. We could have a unique whale too.”

Fin-ally, what's black and white and red all over? A sunbaking whale.

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