Having a whale of a time

This will be the first time in 100 years that whales will not be hunted in the Southern Ocean

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has extra reason to celebrate their National Whale Day this year.  On 31 March, the International Court of Justice declared that Japan's Southern Ocean whale hunt was illegal under international law.

This will be the first time in 100 years that whales will not be hunted in the Southern Ocean.  Given that over 50% of the world's cetaceans are found in Australian waters, including 45 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, this is a great thing for the protection and diversity of the species.

So celebrate this significant win. Take a whale watching boat, or hike along almost any headland to see them migrate along the NSW coastline. They head north from late April to August, and return southwards from around September to November. The Office of Environment and Heritage website is a great place to start. Personally I like the gentle stroll from Kiama South, where I once saw a mother whale teaching her youngster how to wave at us. (You can interpret this how you like, but that's my story.)

The International Court of Justice's decision is one small step in a race to stop hunting the world's largest mammals. The Japanese are already appealing the decision and it hasn't stopped whaling elsewhere. But it's still an important win.

But what can you do to help? IFAW's National Whale Day website suggests a creative approach, encouraging people to describe, in words or pictures, why whaling should end for good. The best 100 entries will be passed on to politicians and diplomats to spread the message of support for an end to whaling.

And on a more domestic front, be mindful of what you put in your rubbish bin. Whales have been found dead with intestinal blockages due to plastic bags and other non-biodegradable rubbish. So look to your recycling practices, use carry bags instead of plastic, don't dump rubbish out of your car that will only get washed out to sea in the next storm. And if you enjoy fishing, make sure you dispose of your bait bags, old lines and nets properly.

Whales are majestic creatures. To see one breach out of the sea is a beautiful sight and one we should all be able to share with our children and grandchildren.