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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp
17 October 2003
The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today launched Eden's Whale Festival - a yearly whale watching event that brings thousands of visitors to the south coast NSW town to celebrate the great whale migration.
"This whale watching festival is a symbol of Australia's remarkable transformation, from a whale hunting nation to a world leader in whale watching and whale conservation," Dr Kemp said.
"For generations in Eden, the arrival of the humpback whale and southern right whales was a cue for the men of the Davidson Whaling Station to ready their harpoons for the slaughter in and around Twofold Bay. They were not alone - Australians saw whales solely in terms of their value for whalebone and oil.
"These days, Eden is a haven, and the whales are assured safe passage on their southward journey to their feeding grounds in the Antarctic. Visitors from far and wide converge to wonder at the spectacular sight of some of the world's most magnificent marine creatures.
"Where once we slaughtered, now we conserve. The Howard Government declared the entire Commonwealth waters of the Australian Economic Zone as a whale sanctuary in 1999."
Dr Kemp said Australia's last whaling station at Albany in WA closed in 1979.
"These days we are fighting at the International Whaling Commission to ban so called 'scientific whaling' - which I see as a thinly disguised excuse to kill whales for commercial gain - and to set up a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. Last year, we successfully listed an additional six species of whales on the Convention for Migratory Species, so that all great whales are now protected. We are working with South Pacific countries to develop a regional agreement to further enhance the protection of whales.
"In our own waters, we have brought five threatened whale species under the protection of the Australian Government's powerful conservation laws. And we are working with industry and conservation groups to reduce today's man-made threat - the devastating impact of marine debris on threatened whale populations.
"Today we're seeing growing numbers of great whales make the annual migration along our coasts. In 1985, there were a mere 100 humpbacks in Australian waters - today we believe some 8000 humpback whales journey each year along this east coast.
"The resurgence of the great whale migration should give us all hope that determined conservation efforts really do work. Not only do they work but they create sustainable jobs and the industries of the future. Here at Eden, and around the country, the new whale watching industry already generates more than $70 million a year."