CONSERVATION officers have reminded boaties to keep watch day and night for whales moving along the Queensland coast.
The warning comes as more than 27,000 humpback whales and other whale species are expected to move along the Queensland Coast before December.
Environment Department manager for southern operations Mike Joyce also warned that no one may take a boat or jet ski within 500 metres or fly an aircraft closer than 610 metres from a special interest whale like Migaloo, the white humpback, without authorisation.
These are unpredictable, 40-tonne mammals and you don’t want to get in their way.
“For all other whales and dolphins the vessel approach limit is 300 metres for jet skis and 100 metres for other vessels, unless three vessels are already in the area, in which case the limit is 300 metres,” he said.
Mr Joyce said there was a $630 on-the-spot fine for getting too close and a maximum penalty of $20,814 for special interest whales.
“In the whale protection zone of the Whitsunday, Lindeman and Gloucester island groups, where many humpbacks deliver their calves, no boat may go closer than 300 metres.
“Follow the regulations for your own safety as well as the whales’ welfare.”
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Mr Joyce said the risks to boaties and whales increased each year as whale numbers recovered from near-extinction in the 1960s.
“Winter and spring are times for great care on the water,” he said.
“Humpbacks are moving along the coast day and night during the migration and can surface at any time without warning.
“These are unpredictable, 40-tonne mammals and you don’t want to get in their way.”
Mr Joyce said humpbacks were known to nudge boats, slap their tails when close to vessels and leap out of the water when breaching.
“Southern right whales are also turning up in our waters.”
Mr Joyce said if a vessel struck a whale boaties were required to complete a marine incident report for Maritime Safety Queensland and report the incident to a conservation officer.
“The best way to do that is to call the RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL. The RSPCA will then pass on the information to a conservation officer in the area where the incident occurred.”