Here come the whales

COFFS Coast whale watchers will be delighted to learn the annual northern migration of humpback whales has started, with the first sightings reported off the North Coast last week.

The migration to breeding grounds in Queensland normally begins around this time of year.

“About this time we begin to see one or two whales and now we are into May the flow will start to pick up,” said Wally Franklin, a researcher with Southern Cross University's Whale Research Centre.

The peak of the northward migration occurs in June and July, but there is evidence the timing of the migration can vary between years.

Mr Franklin said humpback whales leave the feeding grounds in Antarctica to head north to the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef to breed and give birth.

They spend some months off the north-east coast of Australia before heading south again.

“The flow is a steady procession that runs northward through May, June and July and in late July some whales begin moving south again,” said Mr Franklin.

“All the mating actually takes place off the Queensland coast. That's where calves are conceived and usually born. In the most fundamental way, that is their home.”

While the East Coast humpback whale population is now estimated to be around 11,000, Mr Franklin said it was still far from being fully recovered.

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