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Whale-watching rulebreakers on notice

The Conservation Regulator is urging coastal visitors to keep their distance from whales after a spike in public reports and as videos of dangerous interactions increase on social media.

Wednesday, 31 August 2022 at 12:28 am
Credit: Shane Smith

Videos of swimmers, surfers and people in boats getting too close to whales are being posted on apps like TikTok and Instagram encouraging behaviour which threatens the animal's health and welfare.

Authorised Officers are also investigating nine reports of boats too close to whales this season and as well as individuals in several videos posted online.

Its prompted a series of on-water patrols this September as part of the Conservation Regulator's Operation Calyx to ensure everyone is keeping their distance from whales and other marine mammals like dolphins and seals, to keep them safe.

The ocean patrols will target known hotspot areas from Cowes to Portland and will focus on catching wrongdoers, educating the public and gathering intelligence.

This season, the Arthur Rylar Institute’s Whaleface(opens in a new window) project has reported 125 sightings of Southern-Right whales along the Victorian coast, including seven cow-calf pairs in the south-west.

Swimmers and surfers must stay at least 50 metres away from whales, while boats must keep at least 200 metres - or two soccer fields - away and jet skis 300 metres away.

An exclusion zone for powered watercraft and drones at Warrnambool’s Logans Beach is also in effect until 31 October to protect the only established southern right whale nursery in south-east Australia.

Whales are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975(opens in a new window) and people who ignore the minimum distances or exclusion zone will face penalties up to $3698.

If you witness or suspect wildlife crime, report it to Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.

For more info on staying safe around marine mammals, visit our whales, dolphins and seals page(opens in a new window).

The Conservation Regulator takes marine wildlife crimes very seriously and this ocean patrol sends a clear message that ignoring the rules for photos or social media likes is completely unacceptable.

We’re lucky in Victoria to have whales so close to shore this time of year, but we need to ensure all sightings are from the minimum distance away to protect the health of our whales and community safety.

We want to thank the community who have already flagged social media videos with us and reported people getting too close to marine mammals.

Kate Gavens
Chief Conservation Regulator

Conservation Regulator Victoria