THE first humpback whales of the year have been spotted off Fraser Island, more than two months before the whale-watching season officially begins in Hervey Bay.
Freedom Whale Watch Fishing and Dive Charters owner Keith Reid has predicted pods of whales will be spotted in increasing numbers this week after first spotting a humpback during a fishing charter off Fraser Island on Sunday.
The island's Kingfisher Bay Resort also took to social media on Friday, saying migrating whales had been spotted from Indian Head.
The whales will head north before making the return trip, where they are known to stop in the calm Hervey Bay waters and play with their newborn young.
Mr Reid said he expected a great whale-watching season for both whales and spectators, despite the State Government's decision to allow operators outside of marine parks to stop in state waters for the first time.
Only operators in Hervey Bay and Moreton Bay must pay for a permit as they operate inside a marine park.
Mr Reid estimated he had spent more than $130,000 in 2012 to hold the three permits required for his business.
He said Hervey Bay's operators were seeking a meeting with Queensland Parks and Wildlife over the permit system.
"They've just disregarded 25 years of experience," he said.
Mr Reid said the changes meant there was no restriction on the number of boats that could operate on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, potentially affecting the health of the migrating whales.
"It's not about the monetary side of it," he said.
Mr Reid said several operators planned to hold their first tour on July 20.
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