26 September 2023

DES warns sailors: Whales have the way

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The Department of Environment and Science (DES) has warned the community that with tens of thousands of whales on their southward migration, boaties, fishers and jet ski-users should exercise extra care, or risk a hefty fine.

Wildlife Officer at the DES, Carli Lovell said every year in late autumn and late spring, about 40,000 humpback whales travel up and down the Queensland coast as part of their annual migration.

“During this time, many female whales will give birth to their calves, meaning people can expect to see an increase in young whales during their journey south, which coincides with the September-October school holidays,” Ms Lovell said.

“It is also common to see other marine life including seals, dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles and other species of whales travelling throughout Queensland’s coastal waters at this time of year.”

She said that when vessels and marine animals get too close it could pose a serious safety risk to both the community and marine life.

“Since 1 January, the DES has received 62 reports of marine animals with boat strike injuries, and it is safe to say there are many more injured animals in our waters that go undetected,” Ms Lovell said.

“The school holidays are the perfect time to get out on the water, experience our beautiful marine areas and see our unique aquatic wildlife, but it’s important to do so from a safe distance.”

She said distancing rules included boaties and fishers not getting closer than 100 metres of a whale and 50 metres of a dolphin, while jet skis must not approach within 300 metres of both whales and dolphins.

“Boat operators should also be mindful of the ‘three-boat rule’ in which a boat cannot get any closer than 300 metres to whales and 150 metres to dolphins if three boats are already present,” Ms Lovell said.

“A $718 fine and other penalties may apply if you breach these approach distances.”

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