Watch out for whales

ENVIRONMENT Minister Leeanne Enoch has warned boaties to keep a lookout for whales and observe the approach limits.

GOOD SPOT: A white whale, believed to be Migaloo, spotted off the Gold Coast in 2016. Photo: Robert Hartog from Aria Cruises

GOOD SPOT: A white whale, believed to be Migaloo, spotted off the Gold Coast in 2016. Photo: Robert Hartog from Aria Cruises

Ms Enoch said the first of the giant mammals had arrived in Queensland waters and humpbacks would soon be migrating in their thousands on their way to the Great Barrier Reef to have their calves and find mates.

“Saving the humpback whale from extinction is one of the world’s great conservation success stories, and it’s wonderful that we can still share the seas with these beautiful creatures,” Ms Enoch said.

She said about 33,000 whales were expected to head north, with a few thousand newborns added when they head south.

“More whales bring tourism benefits, but more risks to boaties and others using the water.”

“A fully-grown humpback is 40 tonnes of unpredictability. Without warning, they can slap their 5-metre fins and enormous tails, and breach right out of the water or under your boat.

“In the Whitsundays last August, a very unlucky group of fishers suffered injuries when a whale breached right under their boat during the day.”

The minister said boaties could reduce the risk by keeping watch at all times out on the water and observe the approach limits.

“Be especially careful at night, as whales will still be on the move,” she said.

“Remember that whales are curious creatures and may nudge your boat. If you are worried about safety, slow down and steer away from the whale immediately.”

Details about approach limits are available in the document below:

Jet skiers are not allowed within 300 metres of whales or dolphins.

Other vessels can approach up to 100 metres, unless there are already three boats at that limit, in which case skippers need to stay 300 metres away.

In the whale protection zone of the Whitsunday, Lindeman and Gloucester island groups, where many humpbacks deliver their calves, no boat can go closer than 300 metres.

Boats cannot travel at more than six knots or create a wake within the 300 metre caution zone.

Ms Enoch said there were provisions for special interest whales, such as Migaloo.

“No one can bring a boat or jet ski closer than 500 metres or fly an aircraft closer than 610 metres to white whales such as Migaloo without authorisation,” she said.

Ms Enoch suggested a whale-watching trip for those who wanted to see whales up close.

“The skippers will idle or stop their vessels, and whales will quite often approach,” she said.

“Hervey Bay and the Sunshine and Gold Coasts have many whale-watching tours, and there are plenty of opportunities in Great Barrier Reef waters.

“You can get a great view from land, too, at headlands along the southern coast, such as Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island, Point Cartwright at Mooloolaba and Point Arkwright at Coolum.”

Strandings, such as of newborn calves, should be reported as soon as possible to the RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625).