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Whale watching safety along the Perth coast

As whales begin their southern migration back to cooler waters, onlookers are being reminded to keep a safe distance from these majestic animals to ensure they can be enjoyed by everyone.

Three southern right whales, including a mother and calf, have been attracting attention off Perth beaches since last week, where they were seen resting about 100m from the shore of Watermans Bay in Marmion Marine Park.

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) marine park coordinator Mel Evans said while it’s spectacular to watch, and a common sight at this time of year to see humpback and southern right whales, disturbing them can cause distress.

Southern right whales will spend considerable amounts of time resting near the surface of the water close to shore if they are left alone. If they are subject to frequent disturbance, they are likely to leave the area,” she said.

“The mother and calf appear to be in excellent physical condition and are displaying normal behaviours like spy hopping, logging and waving.

“Viewing whales is best done from the higher vantage points on the mainland, rather than from vessels which are required to remain a safe distance of at least 100m from the animal.  

“In the case of southern right whales, they are currently enjoying spending time in the shallow protected waters of the Marmion coastline and can easily be seen from the many lookouts along West Coast Drive.”

Southern right whales are ‘specially protected’ under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and fines of up to $10,000 can apply for disturbing or interfering with these whales.

Ms Evans said swimming with whales can only be done with a licensed commercial tour operator off the Ningaloo Reef, and if a whale shows any sign of distress or disturbance (including diving for prolonged periods or swimming evasively) vessels should move further away.

“These regulations are in place to protect not only the public but also the animal from any unnecessary distress and disturbance as they pass through busy waters along the coastline.”