Whaling Stations in Australia
Whaling was developed in the early 1800′s in Australia and ended in November 1979 in Western Australia. The rest of the world was already whaling. The whales hunted were Humpback, Blue, Right and Sperm Whales.
Early Whaling Stations were set up in South Australia in King George Sound around 1828 and by the late 1840′s most these stations had closed down.
Albany 1952 to 1978 (the last whaling station in Australia to close) at Cheynes Beach Whaling Station. The last whale to die here was a sperm whale, on November 20, 1978.
There were stations in Carnavon at Point Cloates. In 1939 a ten year moratorium on humpback whaling was declared to allow the numbers to increase. After the lifting of the moratorium, 18,000 whales were caught and processed (between 1949 and 1963) at Carnarvon, Point Cloates and Albany. The population there was reduced to about 800 whales.
By 1845, 26,000 whales had been killed and by 1935 there were so few southern right whales remaining that whaling ceased and they became protected internationally. The Southern Right whale was a slow moving mammal and after being slaughtered would float, therefore named the ‘Right’ whale to kill.
Before World War II, most hunting for humpback whales near Australia took place on the west coast and in Antarctic waters. Between 1936 and 1938 more than 12,000 humpback whales were killed.
Greenpeace co-founder Canadian Bob Hunter came to Albany in August 1977 to take charge of a direct action campaign against the three whale chaser ships operating from Albany, Western Australia. Zodiacs were taken 30 miles out to sea to place people between harpoons and the whales. This was the first Greenpeace campaign in Australia. Key members of the Whale and Dolphin Coalition, including Jonny Lewis and Richard Jones, then formed Greenpeace Australia.
East Coast of Australia
New South Wales
In 1826 the famous Eden – Davidson Whaling Station was opened and closed down in 1932. These stations didn’t seem to have longtivity and this seemed to be due to the lack of whales due to over slaughter.
Byron Bay Whaling Station opened in 1954 and closed in 1962 slaughtering some 1,146 whales and collecting some 10,000 tonnes of oil. There is some fantastic information on www.environment.gov.au
Moreton Island Tangalooma Whaling Station in Queensland was opened in 1952 and closed in 1962 in that period some 6,277 humpbacks and 1 Blue Whale were slaughtered. This site was the largest land based whaling station in the Southern Hemisphere. This site commenced operations with Norwegian Chasers and Australians were hired as crew who would eventually takeover the operation. The first whales to be harpooned here were Humpback Whales in June 1952. Their yearly quota was 600 whales with the season running a short 124 days. Each whale was worth around $2000 and produced around 9 tons of oil which was used to make margarine, glycerine, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The whale meat was used for pet food or human consumption overseas, the bones, offal and low-grade meat used for food for stock or fertiliser. By the late 1950′s vegetable oil was introduced thus dropping the price of whale oil, so the whale quota was increased, but by 1961 whales were becoming scarce due to overhunting and by August 1962 they had only killed 68 whales and the station closed for economic reasons, followed closely by Byron Bay and Norfolk Island due to the lack of whales. At this time there were so few whales left along the East Coast of Australia, estimated 200 – 500 only. In 1963 the Island was sold and turned into a Resort.
Between 1950 and 1962 nearly 12,5000 humpbacks were killed and processed along the east coast.
There is no record of Aboriginals or Torres Strait Islanders hunting whales, although Aborigines were employed as boatcrew by some whaling masters.
Whale oil and baleen (whalebone) were Australia’s first major export industries with coastal whaling stations helping build Australia. Sealing and whaling contributed more to the colonial economy than land produce until the 1830s.
From colonisation the whaling industry enjoyed 70 years of commercial success, until petroleum superseded whale oil. In the 1850′s the Gold Rush saw whalers leave whaling and head for the gold fields.