Enjoy whale watching – from a distance

Date posted: 07 June 2011

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is reminding the general public to keep a safe distance when observing whales this season.

The warning comes as the first whales of the 2011 season have been recently sighted in Encounter Bay along the South Coast and the first southern right whale calf was born at the Head of Bight on the Eyre Peninsula.

DENR animal welfare manager, Deborah Kelly, described whale watching as a popular pastime and offered safety tips on how to best enjoy this special time of year.

"People are encouraged to take part in whale watching, but are reminded to observe these animals from a distance so they remain relaxed in their environment," Dr Kelly said.

"Whales may be disturbed by humans or vessels, such as boats, surfboards or aircraft, and this can be stressful for the animal.

"We want to ensure that whales return to our waters each year, so it is important that we provide them with a secure and safe environment.

"If conducted responsibly, water based activities such as fishing and surfing can continue to take place in areas where whales are visiting.

"This means respecting their space and avoid getting too close to any whales that are present."

Dr Kelly said if a person unexpectedly finds themself too close to a whale they should either cut their motor or move away from the whale.

"When people are using the water during the whale season they need to have a greater awareness of their surroundings," Dr Kelly added.

"This is for their own safety along with the wellbeing of the whales.

"Signs that a whale is stressed include frequent diving, spending a longer time below the surface, increasing their speed, repeatedly changing directions and frequent water spurts and tail slaps.

"From our experience, most people do the right thing to prevent whales from being harassed or chased by people.

"Even if you are on the water for another purpose, such as fishing, please give whales space."

For more information about whale watching go to: www.sawhalecentre.com.

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Alex Taylor
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