Hervey Bay Residents create world record paddle-out for Whales


What do spotter planes, flotation equipment of all kinds and over 400 paddlers have in common? A passion for saving whales of course!

Yesterday was National Whale Day with events happening right around the nation to raise awareness of whale conservation. The whale watch capital was one of the many communities across the country to host a National Whale Day event and boy did Hervey Bay show that they know how to throw a party!

The cool water temperature did not freeze the passion for Hervey Bay's humpbacks with over 400 paddlers taking to the water to show their support of their whales. The Paddle Out saw 507 flowers being released into the water during a one-minute silence with black arm bands being worn to represent the number of whales taken last hunting season in the southern whale sanctuary. Paddlers cheered and waved their paddles excitedly to the overhead spotter plane who photographed the event from above.

Hervey Bay Paddle-out CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: An aerial photograph of the Hervey Bay residents creating a world record paddle-out for the Whales. In addtion to the 400 peiople on the water another 500 were standing at the waters edge. Photo: Hervey Bay Skydivers
Hervey Bay residents paddle for whales CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: Four hundred Hervey Bay residents hold their paddles in the air while joining in a minutes silence on behalf of the whales.

Those who couldn't Paddle Out still joined in and lined the water's edge to release flowers and take part in the minute's reflection where they were asked to consider the man-made threats whales face today.

Participants were asked to consider the life journey of each whale taken as they released their flower into the water. Local resident Susan King was one of the Paddlers who took part in the stunt yesterday afternoon and admits she was moved by the Paddle Out. "It was an amazing feeling being united out in the water with 400 or so paddlers that turned out for the same reason. To think that the amount of whales that were taken last hunting season was about the same as the amount of paddlers in the water is a shocking reality and it has to end." she said.

Hervey Bay residents paddle for whales

The event is timely happening two weeks ahead of the International Whaling Commission's next meeting in Morocco where they will discuss a proposal that may see a return to commercial whaling for the first time since 1986.

Organiser of the event Vicki Neville says the day saw an overwhelming response from the community and organisers were more than satisfied with the turn out. "We can't say enough thanks to those who turned out to show their support. From volunteers, to performers and of course the Paddlers, we are just overwhelmed with the support.

Yesterday proved to us, and the Government that Hervey Bay does not agree with the proposal to see a return to commercial whaling. Events like yesterday are so important to educate our community why our whales are so important in a town that depends so much on whale tourism. If we can teach people about the individual whales and their stories, then we can save them." she said.

And it wasn't just the Paddle Out that had to be experienced to be believed. The Hervey Bay community inspired famous sand sculptor Steve Machell to turn yesterday's message into a feature sand sculpture. The sand master unveiled a giant whale tail being carefully held by a giant pair of hands. "The hands are representative of the care and protection shown by the Hervey Bay community for their humpback whales. As the whale watch capital, you've got the whole whale world in your hands and that's truly inspirational," said Steve.

Hervey Bay residents paddle for whales
It was a day of fun for the children of Hervey Bay.

National Whale Day Zumba classes, market stalls and kids sand sculpting workshops were just some of the activities that Hervey Bay residents were treated to as part of the national day of action.

Hervey Bay are planning another whale event in July and the Hervey Bay Whale Festival in August.

Hervey Bay residents paddle for whales
Above: Peter Garrett talks to the media at the Sydney National Whale Day event watched over by Humpback Icon 'Venus'.

National Whale Day is organised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) together with the Humpback Icon Project (HIP). which now involves 67 Australian Communties

Once the Paddlers came to shore, the beach fell silent with a further one-minute silence before Wally Franklin from The Oceania Project addressed participants with an emotional speech about Hervey Bay's whales which his partner Trish has come to know personally. Wally Franklin was framed by 30 icon humpback whale tails, positioned around the event, part of nearly 3000 individual Humpback whales which Trish has photographed and catalogued over the last twenty years.

"What an amazing platform Hervey Bay has given whale conservation through this event. Trish and I were moved to tears watching the Paddlers take to the water, as the songs of humpback whales we had recorded in Hervey Bay called out in the background. Today, Hervey Bay has given a voice to the eastern Australian Humpback whales and we thank the Community for being a part of the journey. I have to say that today is one of the best experiences in which Trish and I have ever been involved. The Hervey Bay communities support for the whales has just been overwhelming." He said.

Below: Trish and Wally Franklin of The Oceania Project beside Steve Machell's poinant sand sculpture depicitng the human hands supporting the eastern Asutralian Humpback whales. Hervey Bay residents paddle for whales

To make a donation to the National Whale Day event for 2011, please contact Vicki Neville on 0406 773 924.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Jan Rolston, Media Officer Ph: 07 4197 4464 or 0407 519 476

More about Hervey Bay events for the Whales can be found at Hervey Bay Whale Festival.