Have a whale of a time on the water — remember to look out for those below

Published: 11/05/2015

Extravagant tail-slapping displays and breathtaking breaches through the water are tell-tail signs of traffic on the mighty humpback highway, as majestic whales begin their annual journey up Australia’s east coast.

After spending summer feeding in the icy Antarctic, around 20,000 humpback whales are migrating to the Reef’s warmer waters to mate, calve and socialise, while thousands more travel to the west coast, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field operations manager Mark Read reminded whale-watching enthusiasts and visitors to keep a safe distance for the safety of whales and onlookers.

“These giants of the deep never cease to amaze, even for people like whale researchers or tourism operators who are lucky enough to interact with them each year,” Dr Read said.

“But given the growth in recreational vessel registrations and the popularity of commercial whale watching, it’s becoming increasingly important for people to abide by approach distances.

“The number of humpback whales is growing annually by 10 to 11 per cent, so one of the best things we can do to reduce the risk to the whales and the people watching them is to ensure approach distances are followed.

“The message is simple: look out for those below.

“If you run into a 15-metre, 40 tonne whale, it’s likely your boat will come off second-best, and the whale could also be injured.”

If you’re lucky enough to spot a whale:

  • Know the law — legally, vessels must stay at least 100 metres from whales in the Marine Park and 300 metres in the Whitsunday Whale Protection Area. It’s also a requirement to stay at least 300 metres away from a whale calf throughout the Marine Park. Disturbing a calf may cause it to stop feeding and leave its mother, and this can be dangerous if the mother feels her calf is under threat.
  • Be alert and watch for whales at all times
  • Reduce your vessel speed to minimise the risk of collision in areas where whales have been sighted
  • Jet skis must stay at least 300 metres away from the animal throughout the Marine Park
  • Be quiet when you are around a whale
  • 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.

Marine Park users can report whale sightings to GBRMPA’s Sightings Network by using the Free App "Eye on the Reef" available for both Apple and Android devices. Sick, injured, stranded or dead whales can also be reported using the App which will automatically alert wildlife rangers and rescuers to the location using the App's GPS function. You can also emaileyeonthereef@gbrmpa.gov.auor call (07) 4750 0863.

Name: GBRMPA Media
Contact: (07) 4750 0846