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4 July 2008

Whale Charters

Steve Mitchell: Naturaliste Charters is a boat-based ecotourism operation. We've been operating in the area for 15 years now. And we're heavily involved in whale-watching and dolphin-watching in the area.

Geographe Bay - it's a halfway point along their southbound migrationary trail. The humpback whales have been to the north of our State to give birth to their calves, to mate, and now they're making their way back down.

We are mindful of the fact that we are in their backyard. We're their visitors. Hopefully we'll see some humpback whales. And there's a chance at this part of the season that we'll see some great big blue whales - the largest living creature on the face of the earth, on the endangered species list - that pass through this bay behind me and very close to shore.

I'll have to give Steve the cameraman full credit there. He's not only working but he's spotted the first whale. Well done, Steve. The humpback mother and calves - they may stay for one or two days, but it's a constant migrationary pattern. The whales are continually coming through the bay. They get out of their feeding grounds in the wintertime and they head north to give birth to their calves - the humpbacks and the southern rights. We're fortunate where we get the northbound migration down at Cape Leeuwin, Augusta. We experience that for three months and then we come to Cape Naturaliste, Dunsborough, and we experience the southbound migration for three months.

She is a big whale, that one. That is a big, big humpback. We work together with the scientific world. We supply them information and in return we get data back. So it is an area where we are working together.

I have 70-year-old people come up and thank me for one of the best days of their life. You need to experience it firsthand for yourself. And it's like everything to do with nature. On its day it's awe-inspiring and overpowering. Within the whale-watching industry, we're allowed to go to 100 metres to the whales. However, you must remember they haven't read the rule book and they are a curious creature, and they can come within metres of the vessel.

Through our seven-month season, we have windows where you see these changes of whale behaviour, and some of these windows you experience the whales where you can almost reach out and touch them from the boat. I've been involved in the conservation of whales for a number of years now. And the longer that I whale-watch and realise that these magnificent creatures were once on the endangered species list and are starting to see a slow recovery, I'm very passionate about the conservation of whales.

WADWA - Whale and Dolphin Watch Australia - was formed five years ago, a national group of operators that has been formed nationally across Australia, that allows us to work together as a peak body and lobby various government departments as such.

There he goes!

People are very passionate. And I believe the governments of the world that have a power to help preserve these sanctuary areas from whaling boats... I believe people are underestimating the passion from the general public about these big, graceful creatures that travel up and down the coast.