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The following season, only 68 humpback whales were captured between June
and August 1962, and the whaling station at Tangalooma ceased operations; by
1963, the infrastructure at Tangalooma station had been sold by Whale Products
Pty Ltd and a tourist resort was subsequently constructed in its place (Peel, 1962,
p763; 1963, p833).
Hence, the impacts of the whaling industry were severe in Queensland
waters, despite the provisions apparently made for the regulation and scientific
monitoring of the fishery. The statistics presented above indicate that, during the
decade of the operation of the eastern fishery, 6,179 humpback whales were killed
at the Tangalooma station. One estimate of the impact of the fishery suggests
that around 10,000 humpback whales migrated along the east Australian coast at
the commencement of the Tangalooma fishery, in 1952; a decade later, less than
500 animals were thought to survive in that population (Orams and Forestell,
1994). Corkeron (1997) reported that the size of the remaining east Australian
population of humpback whales in 1993 was estimated to be approximately 2,500
individuals; he stated that this figure had been achieved after an annual rate of
increase in the population of around 10 per cent per year, yet the total estimated
population is nonetheless far smaller than the total harvest of the Tangalooma
station. Corkeron (1997, p283) also acknowledged that the mortality of the
species has also been increased by the activities of illegal Soviet whalers, which
he stated have 'killed far more whales than previously thought'. In spite of the
regulation and scientific monitoring of the fishery, and its short duration in
comparison with the other European fisheries in the region, commercial whaling
resulted in a severe reduction in the humpback whale population of the east
Australian coast.
Impacts on sharks
Commercial exploitation of sharks in the Great Barrier Reef for the collection of
shark fins and the production of shark oil was described in 1890 by Saville-Kent
(1890a, p733), who stated:
At one of the bêche-de-mer curing stations in the Great Barrier district, I
was informed that a curer had experimentally sent in some dried sharks' fin
to Cooktown, and which had readily realised among the Chinese residents
a price of no less than 19 d per pound. […] The livers of sharks […] yield a
valuable oil, while their carcasses, in combination with the waste products
from the bêche-de-mer , would make excellent manure, akin to guano and
particularly rich in phosphates.
Further documentary evidence of the commercial production of shark products
was provided by Great Barrier Reef Fisheries Ltd (1929, pp5, 7, 15), which
acknowledged the existence of a large market for shark fins, tails, oil, leather,
teeth, dried steaks and manure; that company reported that shark fins were sold
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