Byron Bay photographer and artist Sean O'Shea was lucky enough to capture these images of Migaloo the white whale as he passed by the North Coast.
Byron Bay photographer and artist Sean O'Shea was lucky enough to capture these images of Migaloo the white whale as he passed by the North Coast. Sean O'Shea

When will we spot Migaloo passing the Far North Coast?

IT'S time to head to the coastline in the hopes we might spot the famous Migaloo, or at least the splash of a majestic whale as they migrate north.

Australian Eastern Humpback whales are on the move to the warmer northern waters and breeding grounds of the Great Barrier Reef.

But with COVID-19 restrictions limiting the amount of whale watching tours, people will have to keep an eye out for the giants of the sea from the shore.

Southern Cross University marine ecology researcher Dr Wally Franklin said whales have been making their way past Byron Bay and into Queensland waters.

He said younger males tend to take the lead, followed by mature whales, then mothers with their calves.

"Sightings will certainly start to build up now that we're in late May," Dr Franklin said.

"The end of June tends to be the peak of the northward migration as the whales head up into the Great Barrier Reef area with August being their peak birthing and breeding month," said Dr Franklin.

"The humpback whale population could be around 40,000 this year, which is getting near to where we estimate they were prior to whaling after World War II.

"In the 1960s there were only about 150 whales left so we are very privileged to have this group."

But when can we expect to see Migaloo?

"Migaloo is outstandingly special and garners a lot of attention when he arrives, which is usually around early July," Dr Franklin said.

"Sometimes he turns up off the west coast of New Zealand in June then arrives off Byron and Gold Coast area in July.

"The whales start coming into Hervey Bay from mid-July to mid-October and use it as a nursery to teach their young, then start migrating south again with the southern migration past the east coast running right through to early November."

When current restrictions ease and whale watching tours begin again, Dr Franklin reminds operators and private vessels to maintain legal distancing requirements around whales.

Vessels must not approach any closer than 100 metres to a whale or 50 metres to a dolphin, with Migaloo given a special exclusion zone of 500m.



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