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Sightings records reveal humpback whale migration routes

Migaloo, an albino humpback whale was first spotted off Bryon Bay, Australia in 1991. Since then, scientific and citizen science reports have built an extensive sightings record for Migaloo. This large amount of data on one individual whale helps contribute to our understanding of the species as a whole.

There is one record of Migaloo in New Zealand waters. In 2015, he passed through the Cook Strait before being seen a month later off the Gold Coast.  These two sightings being close together gives researchers reason to believe that he has a strong site fidelity to eastern Australia, despite potentially taking different migration routes. At a species population level, this sighting indicated that New Zealand waters may be used by some Eastern Australian humpbacks to transit between Australia and Antarctica. It could also be a place of mixing, at an unknown level, of humpbacks from different populations e.g. East Australian and Oceania.

Migaloo was last seen in 2020. At time of publication, the authors considered this not to be of great concern as intervals between sightings of him had spanned several years in the past. It is also not uncommon to go over a decade between resightings of individual humpbacks.