Watch whales safely along the WA coast

Whale with propeller strike injury in the Exmouth Gulf in August 2018
Whale with propeller strike injury in the Exmouth Gulf in August 2018 Credit- John Beer

As humpback whales begin their southern migration back to cooler waters, people in recreational vessels are reminded to maintain a safe distance from these giants of the sea.

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) is urging people to stay a safe distance of at least 100m from whales.

DBCA senior marine operations officer John Edwards said it was important that people on boats were not risking their safety and the safety of the animals by getting too close.

“This is a fantastic time of year to enjoy whale watching and we just ask that people follow some simple guidelines when they’re out on the water,” Mr Edwards said.

“If a whale approaches your vessel, either place your motor in neutral or move slowly away from the animal, at a speed of less than five knots.

“Those in smaller boats or on surfboards or kayaks could put themselves at risk if they stray too close.”

Mr Edwards said boaters should leave the area if a whale exhibits behaviour such as diving for prolonged periods or swimming evasively.

“This means that the animal may be distressed or disturbed,” he said.

“Whales are large, powerful creatures and they may react violently if feeling threatened.”

Approaching whales from behind or cutting off the path of moving whales in a boat is both illegal and dangerous. Boats must only approach whales from the side, and no closer than 100m.

The following regulations apply if you are within 300m of a whale:

  • A vessel must not approach a whale within a distance of 100m, and within an arc of 60 degrees of the whale’s direction of travel or from behind.
  • If a whale does decide to interact with your vessel remain at a distance of 100m with your motor in neutral or move slowly away at a speed of less than 5 knots to maintain the 100m safe distance.
  • Vessels must abandon all interaction with a whale at any sign of distress or disturbance (including diving for prolonged periods or swimming evasively).