Whaling was one of Australia's first primary industries, starting in the late 1700’s and continuing until 1979 when whaling was eventually banned. Blue whales, right whales, humpback whales and sperm whales were hunted off the east, west and southern Australian coastline for oil and to make animal feed.
Humpbacks migrating along the east coast of Australia were hunted voraciously during the 1950’s and by the mid 1960's the east coast population was down to only 200 animals. This incredible creature had almost been hunted out of existence off our shores. In 1963, concerned with the disappearance of the whales, the International Whaling Commission banned humpback whaling in the southern hemisphere. We are very fortunate that since that time the population has increased back to a healthy size of around 20,000. Now a whole other industry has been built around the whale migration - tourism! It's one I've participated in many times.
I painted 200 whales over the course of 2016 to illustrate how precariously low the east coast humpback population became. The project was predominantly inspired by the story of the humpbacks, however I painted all kinds of whale species for variety and in order to learn more about other cetaceans.The humpback story is important because it illustrates how essential concerted global efforts are in species protection and conservation. Whaling protection and the story of its implementation should inspire efforts accross other threatened and endangered species and also in areas where native wildlife populations have become precariously low.
At the completion of the project each whale was sold and 50% of the sale price of all sold paintings was donated to Project Orca, a Western Australian orca research project.