Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

First Humpbacks Head along the Coast; Yamba Whale Sightings Herald Beginning of Huge Migration

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

First Humpbacks Head along the Coast; Yamba Whale Sightings Herald Beginning of Huge Migration

Article excerpt

Byline: Clair Morton Clair.Morton@dailyexaminer.com.au

THE first humpback whales of the season have been spotted off Yamba's headland, heralding the beginning of their yearly migration to warmer waters.

According to the Wild About Whales website, an unverified number of humpback whales were spotted from the Yamba lighthouse on Sunday, heading north.

National Parks and Wildlife's senior wildlife manager and officer Geoffrey Ross said whale watchers could look forward to a "bigger, brighter and better" season this year.

He said a permanent counter set up at Cape Solander, south of Sydney, to capture population trends spotted about 20 whales at the weekend, which Clarence Valley residents can expect to see over coming days.

"It doesn't give us a sole estimate but it gives us the trend and the trend's positive," he said.

"Last year's numbers were slightly down on the year before, but overall the trend is that whale numbers appear to be increasing."

Mr Ross said it could take a week or more for the mammals to make their way from the bottom to the top of the NSW coast.

"At the moment, we've heard there's a fairly strong current flowing southwards, hindering the pathway north, but they have to do it, just more slowly," he said.

"It usually depends on ocean currents and how fast they need to get there."

What triggers the northern migration?

Each year, the migration runs like clockwork, and Mr Ross said it was believed the levels of light, rather than the water temperature, provided the trigger.

"As the days become shorter in the Antarctic, we believe that's the trigger for them," he said.

"Once the days shorten the adults figure it's about to get too cold for kids and move on."

Newborn whales calves are born without a protective blubber layer under their skin and would quickly freeze to death in the southern waters, while the parents work off some of their blubber during the journey north, making them a bit more comfortable in warmer conditions. …

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