HUMPBACK whales passing the Sunshine Coast could be a regular sight as early as next week.
Local whale watching operators are anticipating an early start to the season after reports that passing pods have recently been spotted off Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay.
The annual journey up the east coast of Australia is part of their annual migration to warmer waters to breed before returning south along the coast with new calves to feed in cooler waters.
"Usually we don't kick off the season until June 16, because that's a reliable time we start finding whales," Mooloolaba-based Liquid Getaway owner Brett Bam said.
"By conservative estimates we could see whales coming up the Coast by at least the beginning of June."
Mr Bam has already had several inquiries for trips.
"People are anxious. I think it will be a busy season."
He said record numbers were expected to pass by this year.
"They're saying it will be the largest we've seen pass the Coast since we stopped whaling in the 60s."
Mr Bam said he would take some exploratory trips off the Coast next week to see if he could spot any whales.
Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre director Professor Paul Harrison said some whales would start migrating earlier and others would return later.
"The season is extending," he said.
"We are expecting between 15,000 and 16,000 whales to head north this year, which is fantastic."