Keeping your distance from marine mammals

Date posted: 14 June 2013

Maintaining the legal distance from marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals is important, both for our safety and that of the animals.

The animals may be seriously injured if they are struck by a vessel or frightened young may become separated from their mothers. Even if there is no contact, coming too close can disrupt feeding, breeding and migratory behaviours.

The National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals – Marine Mammals) Regulations 2010 set minimum distances for specific situations and animals.

In the water

  • Prescribed vessels (high-powered craft such as jet-skis, hydrofoils and boats used for water skiing or paragliding): Never closer than 300m to any marine mammal.
  • Any other vessel (for example, cabin cruisers, yachts, tinnies, inflatables, kayaks, wind surfers and kite surfers): No closer than 100m to whales No closer than 50m to other marine mammals.
  • Swimmers (including surfers and boogie boarders): No closer than 30m to any marine mammal.

On land

  • No closer than 30m from any marine mammal that is on land (or in the water if the observer is on land).

In the air

  • Planes: At least 300m above any marine mammal.
  • Helicopters and gyrocopters: At least 500m above any marine mammal.

Special rules exist for:

  • the Encounter Bay whale calving and nursery area: All vessels – no closer than 300m to any marine mammal
  • whale calves: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300m
  • distressed, stranded or entangled whales: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300m
  • other marine mammals that are distressed or entangled: low-powered vessels, human-powered vessels and swimmers – no closer than 150m.

Regular water users should make themselves familiar with all the rules for interacting with marine mammals by viewing the National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals – Marine Mammals) Regulations 2010.