SYDNEY, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Tens of thousands of humpback whales have arrived off Western Australia's coast, as their annual migration to find warmer water during the cooler months gets underway.
The 13,000 kilometer round-trip takes place around the end of May and early June, when the majestic creatures leave Antarctica and head north to Australia.
Much to the delight of whale-watchers and tourism operators, the whales usually stay until late November, making it the longest whale-watching season in the world.
"Seeing whales interacting in their natural environment is, for many, a once in a lifetime opportunity," Western Australia Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said in a statement.
"These marine giants can sometimes be seen from the shoreline as they move from the south coast to calving grounds in the Kimberley region and back again, providing whale-watchers with memorable glimpses along the way."
For many local businesses in regional areas, the ocean visitors bring much more than their awe-inspiring beauty.
"Extraordinary natural experiences such as whale watching are great for tourism because they help draw visitors to regional areas and support local jobs through the money visitors spend during their stay," Western Australia Tourism Minister Paul Papalia explained.
For environmentalists, the presence of the humpbacks is a stirring symbol of the remarkable progress made in marine conservation.
"The annual whale migration is one of the world's greatest recovery stories, with humpbacks going from the brink of extinction in the 1960's due to hunting by commercial whalers, to an estimated 35,000 that travel the Western Australian coastline today," Dawson said.