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Migaloo is on the move


Brigid Veale SCU communications manager
27 June 2006
Southern Cross University researchers had a spectacular start to the annual two-week Cape Byron Whale Research Project as Migaloo trekked past the coast flanked by several other whales and pods of dolphins yesterday (June 26).

The annual count started on Sunday, June 25, and will continue for 13 days until July 7.

Dan Burns, who is one of the co-ordinators of the project and a PhD student with the Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre, was on the water hoping to collect another sloughed skin sample from Migaloo as he passed.

But, while some of the other humpbacks put on spectacular displays of breaching, Migaloo kept a steady pace of about eight kilometres an hour as he travelled past the Cape and north into Queensland waters, leaving no skin behind.

Sloughed skin samples are collected from the water using a sieve in an area where a whale has just breached.

"Unfortunately we didn't get any of Migaloo's skin samples, but we were able to get photographs of Migaloo's dorsal and get a couple of identifications of the whales he was travelling with," Dan said.

"We have got some really good information on how long it takes him to travel, which we are trying to do with all the whales."

The information collected will be added to a database, which includes photo identification of thousands of whales.

The Cape Byron Whale Research Project, which started in 1995, is one of the longest-running whale counts in Australia. It is carried out each year by Southern Cross University's Whale Research Centre in collaboration with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Cape Byron Trust, the University of Newcastle and the NSW Marine Parks Authority.

Dave Paton, who is also co-ordinating the project, was up at Cape Byron with volunteer spotters yesterday tracking Migaloo's movements with surveying equipment and software developed by Newcastle University.

Dave said in addition to Migaloo, there were 35 pods of humpback whales spotted and 68 whales. A minke whale was also sighted heading south and breaching.

A special exclusion zone applies to Migaloo, which means boats and other water
craft have to stay 500 metres away. An exclusion zone also applies to aircraft.

Photo: Migaloo makes a spectacular appearance off the coast of Byron Bay. Photo by Dan Burns, Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre.