THE early arrival of humpback whales in the state's south is being celebrated by local tour operators hoping for a bumper season.
The first pods in this year's migration from the Antarctic were were seen 6km off the Gold Coast earlier this week.
Blue Dolphin Marine owner Peter Lynch the early sighting confirmed the ocean giants were well on their way to the Fraser Coast.
"It's always welcoming to hear about the first whales," Mr Lynch said.
"There's now about a two month wait before they turn around and come here."
The recovering humpback population has made for record whale watching seasons in recent years.
Jill Perry and husband Brian, who ran Hervey Bay's first whale watching tours in the 80s, are preparing for their 31st season.
"When we started there were a few hundred whales in the water," Mrs Perry said.
"Now there's anywhere from 16,000 to 20,000."
Traditionally, whale watching season has started in September but early arrivals are becoming more common.
"We are looking at early July for this year," Ms Perry said.
"The earlier start helps bring more people into the Bay.
"There have been a lot of bookings already coming in from both those overseas and from Australia."
The recent Gold Coast spotting was of a female and her juvenile calf.
Marine biologist Zara King said about 27,000 humpback whales were expected to travel through our seas this year for mating and breeding season.
"Humpbacks spend the summer months in Antarctica and the winter months here, near the Great Barrier Reef so they'll pass the Gold Coast on the way there," Ms King told the Gold Coast Bulletin.
"Their breeding takes place in our waters and whales give birth here too so we'll see young calves on the way up and we'll see them at a couple months old on the way back South."
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