Woodside, the largest operator of oil and gas production in Australia, refers to what they say is “the most significant humpback whale study ever undertaken in Western Australia.” This “study” claims that, “off James Price Point, the bulk of the migration occurs in waters approximately 30 km from the mainland, with less than five per cent of humpback whales travelling within eight km of the coast”.
Operation Kimberley Miinimbi has found this statement to be completely false.
As the Steve Irwin sailed from Broome to James Price Point during Operation Kimberley Miinimbi, up to 108 whales were counted each day in the Walmadan area off James Price Point, all well within eight kilometres of the coast (see whale sighting report PDF). An average of fifteen percent of those sightings were of mother and calf pairs. On a number of occasions (as seen in the Kimberley Miinimbi documentary) Sea Shepherd witnessed mothers nursing and caring for their calves less than a kilometer from the proposed gas site. Note that the Steve Irwin crew was only making observations for seven hours a day while in the Walmadan area, so there would be far more over a 24-hour period.
Sea Shepherd has seen with our own eyes that, without a doubt, this is in fact the world’s largest whale nursery and the numbers put forward by Woodside are incorrect. This is further highlighted by the Kimberley Community Whale Research Project where volunteers, coordinated by marine biologist Maddie Goddard, counted 1423 individual whales within 8km of the red cliff coastline in 132 hours of observation between July 1 and August 7. The count included 1233 individual whales and 95 calving pairs.
On countless occasions Sea Shepherd was able to achieve national and international media spotlight on the fact that the area where Woodside plans to put their gas factory port and breakwater is right in the middle of the world’s largest humpback whale nursery. This fact was not lost upon the thousands of people that toured the Steve Irwin in Sydney and watched the new campaign video of Operation Kimberley Miinimbi. We all understand what will be lost if the Woodside’s gas hub goes ahead.
This is just the beginning…
On many levels this campaign has already been a success. However; this is just the beginning of Operation Kimberley Miinimbi and Sea Shepherd is committed to ensuring that the world’s largest whale nursery remains a nursery and not some environmentally destructive gas hub. Despite the Steve Irwin leaving the Kimberley to join the Sea Shepherd fleet to prepare for its ninth Antarctic whale defence campaign to protect the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, we are committed to continuing the fight to protect the whales’ home, their nursery. For without the protection of their nursery from Woodside’s massive gas hub, our majestic and wonderful warm blooded cousins, the humpbacks, don’t stand a chance.
Tim Watters – founder of Fair Projects – pro bono documentary crew:
“Being involved with Operation Kimberley was an amazing experience. Through video production and photos we wanted to be able to show the rest of the world what the Kimberley look and felt like, in the hope that we could provide Sea Shepherd supporters with a better understanding of what we all stand to lose if this development goes ahead. We hope that the short film does justice to the pristine environment and wildlife of the Kimberley region, which is not only one of the most beautiful and untouched places on earth, but one of the most important for the Humpback whales that we share this planet with.”
Sea Shepherd thanks all who helped with this campaign
Sea Shepherd would like to thank the many people that have made this campaign possible so far: The Steve Irwin’s international volunteer crew under the command of Captain Malcolm Holland, our volunteer helicopter pilot Roger Danner, our staff, the onshore volunteers, and especially our supporters from all over the world.
To the people of Broome, including the Goolarabooloo and Nyul Nyul/Jabirr Jabirr people that made Sea Shepherd feel so welcome, thank you.
In the words of Captain Paul Watson “Thank you for your invitation that we accept in the spirit of eternal friendship with a promise to stand in unity with the Goolarabooloo to defend the beauty and sacredness of this wondrous environment.“
We would also like to pay respects to all of the tireless campaigning done by Martin Pritchard and Environs Kimberley, Mark Jones and Save the Kimberley, the Wilderness Society, the incredible support we received from the Australian Greens and an honorable mention to Federal Labor member for Fremantle and Melissa Parke MP for lending her voice to the campaign.
Last but by no means least, this campaign would not have been possible without the support, passion, tireless dedication and resourcefulness of former Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown of the Bob Brown Foundation. Sea Shepherd is honored to have Bob Brown as campaign leader for Operation Kimberley Miinimbi.
“Seeing the whales off James Price Point, mothers, babies, bull whales, seeing the count, going up into the thousands of these whales, the assurance that they will be ok with a mega port, mega ships and a huge factory ashore, is now clearly proven wrong.” – Bob Brown