MIGALOO, the world-famous white whale, could well arrive in the Whitsundays this week, with sightings already confirmed off both the New South Wales and Queensland coasts.
And Migaloo is not alone.
The humpback highway, stretching from the icy cold waters of the Antarctic to the balmy waters of the Great Barrier Reef, is once again flowing with traffic.
From their tail-slapping displays to powerful breaches through the water, migrating humpback whales are putting on one of nature’s greatest annual spectacles and reports are flowing back from the Whitsunday waters that this year’s season is well underway.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) species conservation manager, Mark Read, has urged whale-watching enthusiasts and visitors to keep a safe distance from whales for the safety of all concerned.
“The number of humpback whales is growing annually by 10 to 11 per cent, so one of the best things we can do to reduce the risk to the whales and the people watching them is to abide by approach distances,” he said.
Generally, vessels need to stay more than 100 metres away from a whale and while in the Whitsundays Whale Protection Area the distance is 300 metres.
Vessels must also keep a distance of at least 300 metres from a whale calf.
“If a whale approaches the vessel, operators must keep the motor out of gear and wait for the whales to move away before motoring away,” Mr Read said.
Other tips include avoid making sudden noise, speed or direction changes, being quiet when near a whale and moving away immediately if the whale suddenly changes behaviour or appears agitated. Whale watchers are encouraged to submit their photos or footage to GBRMPA’s Sightings Network, which helps in the management and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef.