Reminder of safe distance requirements for whales

4 July 2014

Boat skippers, swimmers and surfers are reminded to keep a safe distance from marine mammals after some close calls last weekend.

Roads and Maritime Services Acting Manager Sydney Harbour Operations Dan Duemmer said in the lead up to the weekend it was a good time to remind anyone heading out on the water about the legal requirements for safe interaction with whales and other marine mammals.

“The whale migrating season is now in full swing with humpback and southern right whales making their way north,” Mr Duemmer said.

“Seeing a whale can be an amazing experience but last weekend’s events were a concern where some surfers and swimmers were far closer to a southern right whale off Freshwater Beach than is safe for the whale or the people involved.

“There are guidelines to protect marine mammals which are enforced by Roads and Maritime Services and National Parks & Wildlife Service officers and punishable with a maximum fine of $110,000 or two year imprisonment, or both.

“People need to respect whales’ size and space requirements for the safety of all involved.

“Vessels must always travel at a safe speed which will enable them to stop in time to avoid distressing or colliding with a marine mammal. This speed cannot be expressed as a maximum number of knots as it will vary according to the circumstances and conditions.

“People in boats, on surfboards or kayaks must not approach any closer than 100 metres from a whale or whale pod and 300 metres from a mother whale and calf.
“For safety reasons, skippers of any other vessels in the vicinity must be reasonable and wait their turn.

“Swimmers should remain at least 30 metres from marine mammals.

“Fixed wing aircraft must not approach any closer than 300 metres and helicopters no closer than 500 metres.”

For more information on safe boating near marine mammals visit:

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