IN celebration of World Tourism Day sustainable tourism as a tool for development is in the spotlight with a Hervey Bay whale tour operator reflecting on change in the industry.
Peter Lynch from Blue Dolphin Tours said on a day like today (September 27) it was important to highlight the Fraser Coast's habitat for humpbacks.
The dream is to elevate its status with the World Cetacean Alliance to an official 'whale sanctuary'.
About 60% of the world's whales can be found in Australian waters, and none are more adored than the humble humpback, with some 30,000 having made their way from the nutrient-rich waters of Antarctica to the tropical breeding grounds in Queensland's north this season.
But the magic happens on the return journey when, for reasons not yet known, around a third of the herd take a right-hand turn at Fraser Island for a rest-stop in Hervey Bay.
Extensive research by the Oceania Foundation's Trish and Wally Franklin has confirmed Hervey Bay as the planet's most important habitat for humpbacks with a whopping 95% returning to its safe waters each year.
The region is also the only genuine stopover on the southern migration and it's this natural phenomenon that delivers some of the best whale watching experiences this side of the east coast.
Without whales concentrating on swimming north or south, and in the absence of ocean currents on the lee side of Fraser Island, visitors get to see playful, curious personalities of holidaying whales rather than the business side of the migration cycle.
According to Peter Lynch, the numbers of humpbacks migrating through Australian waters is astounding and the interactions even more so.
"Here's an animal that was hunted to almost extinction - commercial whaling boomed in Australia in the late 18th Century; slowed in the 1930s when whale numbers dropped," he said.