Following up on a Birubi Beach surfer’s whale sighting tip last Friday I asked the bunch of dolphin watchers aboard Imagine if they would like to see a whale as well as our dolphins and, to a person, they all said yes.
Even though it was going to double the time of the cruise and some had to dramatically change their day’s itinerary, the interest in seeing such a large animal was alive and well.
After 23 years of whale watching, the experience is still just as awesome and I realized again from the faces of our guests how amazingly lucky we are in Australia and in particular Port Stephens to have this amazing wild environment literally at our doorstep.
In a world where most people live in huge cities, we in this community all to some extent play host and guide to our unique natural environment whether we make a business from it or not.
I think most residents of Port Stephens are proud of our natural assets, particularly those swimming around in our pristine waters.
There are very few countries in the world where whales can be seen reliably from headlands along our coast for six months of the year.
Australia has the two largest populations of humpbacks and for that matter any species of great whale in the world.
Australia was one of the first countries to officially ban whaling in our waters in 1978 and Malcolm Fraser was the man who did it.
He gained quite a bit of environmental kudos for this decision although ironically it turned out it was largely made for economic reasons.
The Detroit car manufacturers in the US stopped using whale oil in their automatic transmissions because of increased emission controls.
Motors had to run hotter to comply with the new rules, the whale oil broke down with those increased operational temperatures and a new heat resistant oil had to be found.
Whale and dolphin watching is now worth more than $500 million annually to coastal communities around Australia and in Port Stephens attracts over $40 million a year to our visitor economy.
But money aside, the look on a visitors face when a whale surfaces near the boat is priceless.
Long live the whales.
Frank Future is the owner of Imagine Cruises and environmental advocate.