Humpback whale
Humpback whale

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

The Parks and Wildlife Service is urging people to stay a safe distance of at least 100m from whales.

Senior marine operations officer John Edwards said it was important that people were not risking their safety or the safety of the animals by getting too close.

“At this time of year, people have a good chance of seeing whales along the Western Australian coast and we ask that those enjoying whale watching follow some simple guidelines when they’re out on the water,” Mr Edwards said.

“It’s important to remember that if a whale approaches your vessel, you should either place your motor in neutral or move slowly away from the animal, at a speed of less than six knots.

“Getting too close, particularly if you’re on a smaller boat, on a surfboard or kayak, or swimming in the water could put you at risk.”

Mr Edwards said boaters should leave the area if a whale exhibits behaviour such as diving for prolonged periods or swimming evasively as it could mean that the whale is distressed or disturbed.

“Whales are large, powerful creatures and they may react aggressively if they feel threatened,” he said.

Approaching whales from behind or cutting off the path of moving whales in a boat is dangerous and penalties can also apply. 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 6 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).
  • People in the water should not approach a whale closer than 100m and drones or other remotely piloted aircraft must stay at least 60m from a whale.
Page reviewed 03 Sep 2019