- 01 October 2009 | Environment
A large crowd of well-wishers gathered on Byron Bay’s Main Beach this morning to show their support for five daring environmental campaigners who have begun a 36 day voyage by sea to Sydney to highlight the plight of migrating humpback whales and to draw awareness to coastal pollution issues.
Dubbed “Transparentsea”, the odyssey is an initiative of professional surfer Dave Rastovich, an environmental crusader who is joined on his quest by Californian surfer and artist Chris Del Moro (San Diego, CA, USA), Musician Will Conner (AUS), Photographer Hilton Dawe (Byron Bay, NSW, AUS) and Surfrider Foundation’s Kristy Theissling (Coolangatta, QLD, AUS).
Paddling single-seat “trimaran” sea kayaks, the participants will use only the wind and the waves to assist them on their journey, as they trace the migration paths of the whales destined for the Southern Ocean.
During their frequent stops along the East Coast, the team will also engage local communities to assist in beach clean-ups, as well as highlighting and recording other areas of environmental concern including the effects of the commercial fishing industry on marine mammals and fish stocks; run-off issues to do with agricultural, domestic and industrial human activities; and the state of rivers and estuaries.
“It’s a great honour to be here from California representing such a great cause and the organisation Surfers for Cetaceans,” said Del Moro.
“I’m just stoked to see Australians have such an incredible support for environmental issues, especially water and ocean related issues and the fight against whaling and dolphin hunts. In the States we have a lot of people who are really fired up, but here it seems like whole communities are coming out. Everyone’s really given us their support; it feels like a lot of people are really backing it (Transparentsea). It excites me to think we’ll be at sea with these amazing creatures, it’s going to be life changing,” he added.
A fresh northerly wind and swell provided the paddlers with the perfect start, and by the end of day one, they hope to have reached Evans Head, some 60 kilometers south, before a planned rendezvous with Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd and his ship, the “Steve Irwin” in the vicinity of Yamba this weekend.
Before setting off, Rastovich appealed to all those present to unite and help to support the causes in whatever way they could.
“Our goal is to get information and the message out to the public and everyone who has an interest. We need to get out the message to Kevin Rudd (PM. Australia) and Peter Garrett (Minister for Environment) so they can step up, and do the job they said they were going to do and that is go down and fight sanctuary wars in Antarctica,” said Rastovich.
“Right now, the only ship going to Antarctica is Sea Shepherd. This whole trip is about escorting the whales down the coast. When we get to Sydney, November 5th, we’re going to be joining with the Steve Irwin (ship) and the Sea Shepherd crew and launching their campaign as they head off to protect these whales passing us right now. So if anyone has anything they can give to help the Sea Shepherd, please do so.”
Migaloo, the only recorded all-white humpback whale in the world, created a stir earlier this week when he was spotted near Cape Byron traveling south with a pod of five other whales.
This morning, a pod of six whales was spotted as the paddlers made their way around the Cape for what will surely be a great test of endurance and possibly the surf trip of a lifetime.