Exciting Changes Proposed for Whale Watching Regulations

A recent media release from the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, invites comments on proposed changes to state whale watching regulations.  The proposal aims to simplify regulations for Whale Watching Tour Operators while maintaining the safety of the whales.

Proposed Changes to Whale Watching Regulations

Happy Whales means Happy Watchers! Photo Credit: kathariney.

At Whales in Paradise, our first concern is for the safety of both our passengers and our beloved whales! And you know what they say- happy whales, happy watchers!

Currently, we are required to travel 3 nautical miles (about 10 minutes out) through State waters before commencing our Whale Watching tour, regardless of whether or not we spot whales along the way.  However, changes proposed by the Newman Government aim to simplify these regulations, while maintaining safety for the gentle giants.  The proposal would also simplify the declaration process for areas of special interest and whales such as Migaloo, the famous all-white whale.

Whale Watching

Humpback Whale "spyhops" us at Whales in Paradise.

Whale Watching Tour Operators presently have a legal approach distance of 100 meters.  So, once we spot those beautiful Humpbacks, we anchor at that distance and enjoy watching their incredible aqua acrobatics such as breaching and tail slaps.  However, the whales don't seem to have read the latest Whale Watching Regulations and, being curious creatures, sometimes swim right up to our boat to check us out! This is known as spy-hopping.

The considered changes are not only whale specific.  The proposal also addresses improvements needed in related marine industries such as dolphin spotting and feeding at Tin Can Bay, as well as creating better management frameworks for Dugong.

Increased Protection for Dugongs included in Proposal to Simplify Whale Watching Regulations

Increased Protection for the Vulnerable Dugong included in Proposal. Photo Credit: Myseek.org

So...what exactly is a Dugong, you ask? A Dugong is a large marine mamman, usually up to 3 metres in length, which is globally vulnerable to extinction.  With its portly body, paddle-like flippers and fluked tail, it is sometimes described as looking like a 'fat dolphin.'  Att to this the fact that it is a gentle vegetarian with a funny little face and you have one super cute ocean creature! The proposal improvements for care of the Dugong include introducing lower speed limits for vessels in vulnerable areas after floods to help Dugong recover from habitat loss.

You can have your own say on the matter: the proposals are now open for public comment.  View the draft legislation and give feedback, comments or questions by emailing marine.mammals@ehp.qld.gov.au