Department urges boat safety near migrating whales

Pilbara News
A humpback whale does a full body breach on the west side of the North West Cape.
Camera IconA humpback whale does a full body breach on the west side of the North West Cape. Credit: Janine Marx, Exmouth Visitor Centre

Pilbara boat users are being reminded to keep a safe distance away from humpback whales as the gentle giants begin their annual migration south to cooler waters.

Tens of thousands of whales are expected to swim through Pilbara waters over coming weeks and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions is urging people to stay at least 100m away from any they encounter.

DBCA senior marine operations officer John Edwards said it was a great time of year to enjoy whale watching but people needed to follow some basic precautions for both their own safety and that of the marine animals.

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

The DBCA advises that boats should only ever approach whales from the side and at a distance no closer than 100m.

Approaching whales from behind or cutting off a moving animal with a boat is illegal, as well as dangerous.

If a humpback approaches within 300m of a boat and tries to interact, DBCA recommends keeping a distance of 100m away by either putting the motor in neutral or moving away slowly at a speed of less than five knots.

Keeping a safe distance away is especially important for people on smaller boats or on surfboards or kayaks who could otherwise put themselves at risk.

Mr Edwards also said whale behaviour such as diving for prolonged periods of time or swimming evasively could indicate an animal was distressed or disturbed, in which case boaters should not interact with them at all and should leave the area completely.

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