On 28th June, 1991, an all-white humpback whale was photographed passing Byron Bay, Australia’s most easterly point. This unusual whale is, so far, the only documented record of an all-white humpback whale in the world. It has been named “Migaloo” This is the name Australian Aboriginal community elders from the Hervey Bay area in Queensland use to describe a White Fella.
Migaloo is an adult male. Researchers from Southern Cross University were able to collect sloughed skin samples from Migaloo in October 2004 when he breached. Small pieces of skin fell off him into the water and were collected and analysed for DNA. From this it was confirmed that Migaloo is definitely a male. A genetic fingerprint for Migaloo was also obtained, allowing researchers to check for relatives of Migaloo amongst the other whales they have samples from, as well as to check whether Migaloo is the father if they obtain skin from a calf.
Migaloo is suspected to be an albino whale, but without definitive evidence for the moment he is known as a “hypo-pigmented” humpback. Migaloo is part of the east Australian humpback population, now suspected to number around 11-13,000 individuals in 2010. Whale watching guidelines exist to protect humpback whales in Australian waters. These include slow approach speeds (6 knots) when within 300m of an adult humpback, and vessels are prohibited from approaching closer than 100m of adults, or 300m if a calf is present.
Because Migaloo is such a unique whale he has special Queensland & Commonwealth Government legislation that is enacted each year to protect him from harassment. For this reason all vessels including Jet-skis are prohibited from approaching Migaloo no closer than 500m and Aircraft no lower then 2000 feet. The Fine for breaching this law is $16,500.00