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Australia’s inaugural National Whale Day was held on June 14 at Bondi beach to raise awareness of the threat facing humpback whales.

At the ceremony, Waverly Council Mayor Ingrid Strewe spoke of her personal thrill in whale watching, the importance of preserving this graceful, awe-inspiring animal and the commercial benefits of whale watching which is estimated to be worth around $300 million a year.

She was asked to speak on behalf of the 60 Australian coastal councils taking part in IFAW’s Humpback Icon Project (HIP), which encourages coastal councils to adopt a humpback whale as their icon. And it is this iconic species for Australians that is being targeted by the Japanese Whaling program. The project aims to gather community support and help councils raise threats to their icon humpback whale with their respective Japanese sister cities.

The ceremony was followed by an anti-whaling protest at North Bondi beach the following week. Organisers of the protest, The Changing Colours Movement, held a concert for the 600-strong crowd at North Bondi RSL club to raise money for anti-whaling organisations, including HIP member organisation ‘Surfers for Cetaceans’.

Waverly Council became involved in HIP last year when it adopted a humpback they named Liberty. Environment Minister Peter Garrett chose the name from submissions received from local kids. Humpbacks have distinctive markings on the underside of the tail fluke that are unique to each whale.

Trish Franklin of The Oceania Project documented these markings in photos and distributed them to councils so that communities can identify their adopted whale when it passes along the migration route. 

IFAW wants to establish a symbolic chain of coastal councils that stretches across the entire eastern and western seaboards, a popular whale migration route for the humpback on its way to breeding territories.  It hopes these councils will become a potent weapon against whaling.