We are witnessing a larger migration of whales along our shores this year. Along with an increased amount of amazing documented sightings, and an introduction of our first whale watching tourist ventures. Watching whales as the layperson going about our adventure filled boating lives, I know we’re all a little unsure of what is OK and considered acceptable when it comes to our own whale spotting encounters. GBRMPA have shared with the local LMAC committee some info as a guide for safety and protection when out on the water encountering these giant majestic beasts.
There are legal obligations to consider when around whales and dolphins which are pretty straight forward but worth a read. Click the links if you want more info and while you’re out there keep safe, enjoy the display.
If you’re looking for land sighting opportunities visit Whale Spotting Yeppoon & Capricornia FB Page (see below)
Whale & Dolphin Watching Regulations
The Great Barrier Reef is a vitally important breeding ground to about 30 species of whales and dolphins. The most commonly sighted whales are massive humpbacks, which migrate to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park’s warmer waters from Antarctica, from May to September – to court, mate, give birth or rear their calves. Important to their continued survival are ‘nurseries’, free from any harassment.
If you use the waters of the Marine Park, you have a responsibility to help protect whales and dolphins and to keep safe distances from them. The following legal requirements are set out in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983 and are complemented under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
When you encounter whales or dolphins, either from a vessel, aircraft or in the water…
- You must not kill, take, injure and/or interfere with whales and dolphins – interference includes harassing, chasing and herding, restrict the path of whales or dolphins, touch or feed, or attempt to touch or feed.
- You must not enter the water within 100 meters of a whale or within 50 meters of a dolphin; approach closer than 30 meters if you are in the water. If a whale or dolphin approaches you while you are in the water, move slowly, do not touch or swim towards it.
- You must minimise noise when closer than 300 meters from a whale or dolphin.
When operating a vessel or aircraft…
- A vessel must not approach closer than 100 meters to a whale, or 50 meters to a dolphin.
- Approach the whale or dolphin only from the rear or by positioning the vessel ahead of the whale or dolphin, and always in a position that is more than 30 degrees to its observed direction of travel.
- If the whale or dolphin is a calf, a vessel must not enter within a radius of 300 meters of the whale and 150 meters of the dolphin. (i.e. the caution zone)
- If a calf appears causing your vessel to be within the caution zone, you must stop the vessel and turn off the engines or disengage the gears or withdraw your vessel at a constant slow speed.
- If your vessel is closer than 300 meters to a whale or 150 meters to a dolphin, it must be operated at a constant slow speed, if closer than 50 meters to a dolphin, the vessel must not change course or speed suddenly.
- If there are three vessels within 300 meters of a whale or dolphin, all additional vessels must remain outside a 300 meters radius from the whale or dolphin.
- If a whale approaches close to your vessel, take all precautions to avoid a collision, either slow down and steer away from the animal or place the engines in neutral and let the animal pass.
- Prohibited vessels (i.e. jet skis, parasails, hovercraft, hydrofoils, wing-in-ground effect craft and motorised diving aids such as underwater scooters) must not approach closer than 300 meters to a whale or dolphin.
- An aircraft must not operate below 1000 feet within a horizontal radius of 300 meters of a whale or dolphin and must not approach a whale or dolphin head on.
- In addition, a helicopter must not operate below 1650 feet within a horizontal radius 500 meters of a whale or dolphin.
- If you accidentally strike a whale or dolphin you must report it.
Info courtesy of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority