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Breaching whale, Out of the Blue Adventures, Ballina
Photograph: Supplied | Destination NSW | Out of the Blue Adventures, Ballina

GOOD NEWS: More than 40,000 humpbacks will cruise by Sydney this year, with populations on the up

Humpback whales are one of just 14 endangered species whose population is increasing

Winnie Stubbs
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Winnie Stubbs
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Winter is here, Sydney's whale-watching season is upon us, and in excellent news for everyone involved – particularly our breaching amigos – the number of whales journeying past our Harbour City continues to significantly increase. In fact, the World’s Migratory Species assessment found that populations of 14 threatened species have improved over the past 12 months – humpback whales included. Here’s what we know about the majestic ocean-bound beings we’ll see along the coast over the next few months.

Humpback whales have one of the longest migrations of any mammal on the planet – with thousands of the huge aquatic creatures travelling north from Antarctica every year. While some head west and make their way past Australia’s west coast, most of the pacific ocean’s humpback population heads east, with some journeying past the coast of New Zealand, and many sailing up past Victoria, then past the coast of NSW and up towards Cairns. Of the estimated 40,000 whales that migrated past the shores of Sydney last year, most were humpback whales. 

Whale watching boat
Photograph: Terrigal Ocean ToursTerrigal Ocean Tours

In recent history, it wasn't as safe for these gentle giants to sail through the sea. Commercial whaling between the 1850s and as recently as the 1960s saw the global humpback whale population decline to an estimated 10,000 to 15,000, leading the humpback whale to be one of the first species protected under the Endangered Species Conservation Act.

Since the international moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986, the global population of this creature has rebounded to almost 80,000, and the global humpback population is still on the up. Experts estimate that the global humpback population is currently increasing by between seven and 12 per cent every year, and many of these enormous creatures can be seen from the beaches on our doorstep.

Keen to see some whales in the wild? These are the best whale-watching spots in Sydney.

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