Whale lovers excited as annual 10,000km whale migration starts

Humpback Whale breaching off Boat Harbour this whale watching season. Photo: Matt Spillard.

TOURISM is big business in the Port Stephens region and nothing is better in winter than seeing the annual migration of whales as they head north to warmer waters.

Port Stephens is one of the closest places that the whales travel to the land in their 10,000km migration.

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The whales have been making appearances for the past couple of weeks, with numbers strengthening.

The region is truly a whale superhighway with plenty of shore-based whale watching vantage points and of course some great water-based whale watching experiences available.

The first sightings of whales off the NSW east coast have been recorded as the annual migration from Antarctica to warmer northern waters begins.

Minister for Environment James Griffin said the first of about 40,000 humpback whales have started their long swim towards tropical waters.

“The whale migration is one of the longest journeys of any animal species and we are so lucky to be able to witness it right on our doorstep,” Mr Griffin said.

“We have more than 880 national parks and reserves in NSW, many of which are on the coast and provide excellent viewing opportunities for these oceanic giants.

“After declining to an estimated few hundred whales in the early 1960’s, the recovery of the humpback whale population is a great conservation success story and one we can all be proud of as we enjoy watching these majestic creatures make their way up the coast.”

Whales cover about 10,000km during their annual round trip from Antarctic waters, at a migratory speed of about six kilometres per hour.

Most of the whales that travel past the NSW coast are humpback whales, however other whale species include southern right whales, dwarf minke whales, tropical whales and even blue whales.

National Parks and Wildlife Service marine fauna expert Shona Lorigan said humpback whales are easily recognisable and their behaviours, like breaching and rolling, always put on a show for whale watchers.

The annual migration heads north in May and south through to October each year.

Regulations require all vessels to remain at least 100 metres away from whales, aircraft can fly no closer than 300m, and drones must not be operated closer than 100 metres.

Whales in distress can be reported to the NSW NPWS on 13000 PARKS or ORRCA Whale and Dolphin Rescue’s 24 hour hotline on (02) 9415 3333.

You can register and check whale sightings at wildaboutwhales.com.au.

By Marian SAMPSON

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