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Watch out for Whales May to September

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 17, 2008 10:08 AM

Published: 2008-06-17 10:08:44
Countries: Australia

As reported on boatingOZ.com
Media Release by GBRMPA, Thursday, 12 June 2008

Take care around whales and abide by approach distances – that’s the message from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) as they ask all on the water to be careful of whales migrating north.

The call comes as whales are expected to be sighted as they travel through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park during their annual migration from the colder southern oceans to warmer northern waters.

Dr Mark Read from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said it was important to abide by approach distances for both the safety of whales and onlookers.

"Whales are regularly seen in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park from May onwards as they make their annual migration to the warmer waters of northern Queensland," he said. "Whale watching regulations are in place to safeguard whales, which are a protected species in Australian waters, from potential boat strikes and other hazards. The regulations are there to ensure these majestic animals can go about their usual activities without being affected by human activities. It also gives onlookers an opportunity to observe the animals from a safe distance.

"While whales can be social animals and may approach boats or people in the water, it is important not to approach them for both the safety of the whales and people watching them. An adult humpback whale is between 12 to 15 metres long and can weigh up to 40 tonnes."

Legally, vessels must stay at least 100 metres away from whales in the Marine Park and 300 metres away in the Whitsunday Whale Protection Area. Jet skis must stay at least 300 metres away from whales throughout the Marine Park.

Below are some simple practices people should follow when boating in the Marine Park during whale season:

• Keep a lookout and avoid disturbance to mother whales and their calves, especially from May to September.

• Reduce your vessel speed to minimise the risk of collision in areas where whales have been sighted (travel at a constant slow speed).

• Abide by approach restrictions - vessels must stay at least 100 metres away from the animal and 300 metres away in the Whitsunday Whale Protection Area, and jet skis must stay at least 300 metres away from the animal throughout the Marine Park

• Do not get in the water if you see a whale - if you are already in the water do not disturb, chase or block the path of a whale and if possible, return to your vessel.

• If there is a sudden change in whale behaviour, move away immediately.

• Report sick, injured, stranded or dead whales to the EPA Hotline - 1300 130 372.

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