Should the present rate of reproduction amongst the Humpback whales, traveling between Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef continue, then not only will the industry future be assured, but also new management problems could arise. By the year 2000 there could be-as many as 6000 and by 2010 perhaps even 20.000 Humpback whales, half of which may spend some time in Hervey Bay! There is no certainty of these figures, but there is no one, who can argue against this possibility either. Careful monitoring and common sense approach must prevail, but much more is required.
The Hervey Bay Marine Park offers good protection to the visiting Humpback whales, but they only stay for two to five days on an average. What happens during the other 360 days? How do the whales react in the Great Barrier Reef to close approaching whale watch vessels, whilst they are engaged in their mating game, the female carefully trying to select a suitable partner and the males competing in a serious battle to be the female's choice? As stated before other breeding grounds in the world have reported possible displacement of Humpback whales due to vessel traffic. What protection will be given to the whales in their breeding grounds of the Great Barrier Reef, knowing a danger exists?
And during the time the female gives birth? At such a time our Regulation allow for a 100 metres approach limit.
Will we see a wildlife sanctuary in the Antarctic region to ensure the krill as food supply?
Nature herself will put a sensible restriction to the eventual numbers of Humpback whales in this region. It is reported that the number of penguins in Antarctica are again increasing and as they also eat krill, the available food supply will automatically control the population growth-rate of any animal. Mother Nature always remains in total control.
Also there are other whales that are increasing in numbers and one of them is the Orca or killer whale. A report from N.S.W. tells the story that during May 1993 five large Humpbacks were attacked by a pod of Orcas and were all killed. During the 1993 whale watch season in Hervey Bay there were more reports of injuries and chunks bitten from Humpbacks and their calves. Again is perhaps the Orca trying to prove, that they are the wolves of the sea?
As said before Humpback whales only spend two to five days in Hervey Bay on average, yet they deserve the fullest possible protection during the remainder of the year, regardless how difficult this may appear. This is not the responsibility of one group of people or a single nation. This requires a commitment from all the people of the world, to save the whales, the elephants, the rhinoceros, the rainforests, the ozone-layer, the oceans. To save this planet.
No one can tell whether the number of Humpback whales will ever increase to pre-whaling numbers of tens of thousands, but at the moment there appears to be room for cautious optimism. Whilst continuing to provide opportunities for everybody to acquaint themselves with these gentle giants, a thought must be given to the fact, that in 1963, it was almost too late.