All Boaties must keep watch for whales

Boaties need to keep watch day and night as more than 27,000 humpback whales and other whale species move along the Queensland coast from now until December.

Mike Joyce, Manager Southern Operations in the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, said the risks to boaties and whales increased each year as whale numbers recovered from near-extinction in the 1960s.

“Winter and spring are times for great care on the water,” Mr Joyce said.

“Humpbacks are moving along the coast day and night during the migration, and can surface at any time without warning.

“These are unpredictable, 40-tonne mammals and you don’t want to get in their way.

“Humpbacks are known to nudge boats, and also to slap their tails when close to vessels, or leap out of the water when breaching.

“Southern right whales are also turning up in our waters.

“If your vessel does strike a whale you are required to complete a marine incident report for Maritime Safety Queensland, and also report the incident to a conservation officer.

“The best way to do that is to call the RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL. The RSPCA will then pass on the information to a conservation officer in the area where the incident occurred.

“No-one may take a boat or Jet Ski within 500 metres or fly an aircraft closer than 610 metres from a ‘special interest’ whale like Migaloo the white humpback without authorisation," Mr Joyce said.

“For all other whales, and dolphins, the vessel approach limit is 300m for Jet Skis and 100 metres for other vessels, unless three vessels are already in the area, in which case the limit is 300 metres.

“In the whale protection zone of the Whitsunday, Lindeman and Gloucester island groups, where many humpbacks deliver their calves, no boat may go closer than 300 metres.”

“There’s a $630 on-the-spot fine for getting too close, and a maximum penalty of $20,814 for special interest whales such as Migaloo the white whale," he said.

“Follow the regulations for your own safety as well as the whales’ welfare.”

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