THE first humpback whales on their annual migration up the Queensland coast were spotted last Saturday at Byron Bay.
Oceania Project founder Wally Franklin, who runs research projects in Hervey Bay each season, received news from contacts in northern NSW.
The sighting puts them right on track to hit Hervey Bay waters by July.
Hervey Bay Whale Watch owner Jill Perry said it was not unusual to see the whales start migrating this early in the year.
"Generally March or April they will start to migrate," she said.
"There are more whales every year so we may get a few extra days in the season."
The usual whale-watching season is from July to November as the whales head to north along the coast to breed then return south with their new calves.
Humpback numbers have been increasing dramatically over recent years and Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre director Professor Peter Harrison said it meant 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."
"We will see more whales during the peak periods, but also groups earlier and later in the season," Professor Harrison said this week.