Whales spotted off Gladstone coast earlier than usual
WHALES have been spotted off the Gladstone coast in recent days on their annual migration north.
Every year, more than 33,000 of the majestic mammals make their way north to breed after enjoying a summer smorgasbord in southern waters.
Renowned marine biologist Yvonne Miles said it was not known why whales change their migratory patterns, but the start of the sightings was a month early this year.
"Whales have started transiting this year from March and they have been seen off south Queensland. They've been seen quite early" she said.
"But their timing is changing completely from year to year and I'm not sure if it's a case of we are just getting really good now at spotting them compared to previous years, or whether there is a complete difference in their timing.
"With migration, unless you've got a data tracker that is on a whale for a long period of time, it is really hard to say, because it is difficult to identify the same whale year after year."
Due to COVID-19, Ms Miles said funding was not flowing freely for research projects on whales.
"Migration is so variable. It all depends on the whale and the resources they have consumed in Antarctica, how far along in gestation they are and, for the juveniles, where their mother has gone previously," she said.
"Juveniles will follow their mother's migration patterns along the coast, unless they're encouraged by males to move a bit further.
"Until they get to a certain size and have a certain fat content in their cells, reproduction won't kick in and when they do it is time for them to have babies.
"You typically see the most whales going past Gladstone at the end of May and in June."
Migrating 5000km annually, humpback whales such as Migaloo are the most common species spotted in local waters, while the mysterious minke whales cruise the reef from June.
Curtis Island Ferries managing director Adam Balkin said they see whales every week during June and July.
"This year we will do a bit of whale watching from Connor Bluff at Curtis Island. National Parks have just put a viewing platform there," he said.
"That viewing platform will be a great place to spot a whale coming up the coast. They generally go really close to the coast along the headlands there, so you can definitely see the whales from Curtis Island."