Watching you, watching whales: keep your distance
16 September 2011
To protect migrating whales and their calves on their journey to the southern ocean federal and state environment officers will be conducting patrols on the water off the Gold Coast.
As part of the nationwide Operation CETUS, environment officers from the Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities and Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management are conducting joint patrols during September and October.
The departments remind the public that it is important for the whales and their own safety that they observe the speed and zoning limits.
Whale watchers are urged to be alert and watch for whales at all times and not approach closer than 100m to any whale or 50m to any dolphin when in a boat. Limits also apply to people in the water and overflying aircraft.
Under the agreed national whale watching guidelines which are enforced under state and commonwealth environment laws the caution zone for vessels is the area within 300m of a whale and 150m of a dolphin. No more than three vessels are allowed within the caution zone at any one time and vessels should operate at no-wake speeds within this zone.
At this time of year whale watchers are also required to avoid disturbance to female humpbacks and their calves. To protect whales and their calves from ship strike, and to reduce the risk of calves being separated from their mothers, vessels must not enter the caution zone when calves are present.
Under national environment law penalties for harassing, chasing or herding whales can carry a fine of up to $110,000 and or two years imprisonment. Penalties also apply under the relevant state legislation.
To report any alleged breach of the limits contact the federal environment department on 0448 285 204 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information can be provided anonymously.
Coordinated through the Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators neTwork (AELERT) Operation CETUS involves the close monitoring of the activities of boat operators, overflying small aircraft and people in the water interacting with whales and the enforcement of whale approach limits. Operation CETUS will run until the end of the whale watching season.
For more information on whale watching guidelines and the caution zone go to www.environment.gov.au/coasts