Sunday marked the official start of the whale watching season in New South Wales.
Sunday marked the official start of the whale watching season in New South Wales. Contributed

Early start to whale season

WHALE Watch Headland at Woolgoolga's has been the one of the places to be this week with the season's first sightings of humpback whales on their northern migration.

Sunday marked the official start of the whale watching season in New South Wales but, for almost a month, there's been scuttlebutt around that the first sightings had been made off the Coffs Coast.

Traditionally, the whale migration from Antarctica to mate off the Queensland coast was believed to span from late May to November.

In recent years, however, local sightings have been made as early as April, which scientists say is due to the growing humpback population.

"The populations on the east coast of Australia are roughly 16,000 to 18,000 animals," National Parks and Wildlife Service co-ordinator of marine fauna programs Geoffrey Ross said.

"The population estimates for humpback whales are around 14% increase per annum.

"That's a significant increase in any animal population."

He said humpbacks are the most commonly sighted whales, but watchers might also spot southern right whales and minkes.

"Minkes are hard to see because they're very fast," he said.

"The southern right whale is another big animal - 40- to 50-tonne females, slow-moving, heavy animals, but absolutely majestic when they move from place to place."



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