Australian Eastern Humpback whales are migrating up to the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef and locals may have a greater chance of spotting them.
With fewer boats on the water due to the coronavirus pandemic, a large pod is swimming past Byron Bay and into Queensland waters.
Wally Franklin, a whale researcher at Southern Cross University, said the whales could swim up as far as Cairns and Port Douglas.
“It’s possible the whales might stick a little closer to the coast if there’s fewer boats,” Dr Franklin said.
“Because the population has been steadily growing over the last couple of decades … there’s actually a lot of whales coming up.”
Sightings are tipped to increase in the coming months, with August being peak birthing and breeding month for whales.
The humpback whale population is expected to be around 40,000 this year.
Dr Franklin said the population size had not been this high since whaling increased after World War Two.
“In the 1960s there were only about 150 whales left, so we are very privileged to have this group,” Dr Franklin said.
When COVID-19 restrictions are eased to allow whale watching tours to resume, Dr Franklin explained it was important for operators and private vessels to maintain legal distancing requirements.
“If the boats restart during this season…numbers are probably going to be restricted,” he said.
It’s really a question of just taking extra care this year, keeping the regulated distance from the whales.”