Environment SA News

Make a safe passage for southern right whales

Boaties are reminded that the annual closure of conservation zones in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park (Commonwealth) and Far West Coast Marine Park (State) will begin in May marking the start of the whale season.

From 1 May to 31 October boats are restricted in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park and the Far West Coast Marine Park to provide safe passage to southern right whales during their breeding season.

The park’s Restricted Access Zone (State waters) and Determined Area – prohibiting the use of vessels (Commonwealth waters) are both off-limits to boats from 1 May to 31 October 2020.

These temporary closures will help southern right whales successfully navigate their way to the head of the Great Australian Bight for the breeding season.

National Parks and Wildlife Service, Far West District Marine Parks Coordinator Dirk Holman said the closure helps keep marine life undisturbed during this time.

“Southern right whales migrate to the Head of the Bight each season to mate, give birth and nurse their young calves in calm, protected waters,” Mr Holman said.

“While they are here mothers are unable to feed, so it is critical they are not disturbed by vessels, allowing them to conserve their energy for their return journey to sub-Antarctic waters.”

The beginning of the whale breeding season brings out keen observers and each year people are exploring different ways to obtain that ‘perfect picture’.

Senior Ranger Lana Roediger said there are strict regulations when observing whales from both on and off shore.

“With the increasing use of drones to capture footage it is important to remember that flying or hovering a drone above a whale is not permitted,” Ms Roediger said.

“If you are in a small vessel on the water you must stay at least 100m away from a whale and 300m away from whales with calves, while jet skis must remain at least 300m from whales, dolphins and seals at all times.

“Whales, like all marine life, can exhibit unpredictable behaviour and these regulations ensure both animals and people remain safe. People found to be in breach of these regulations face expiation fees of $315.”

The temporary closure aggregation site at the Head of the Bight is encompassed by the State Far West Coast Marine Park, and the Commonwealth Great Australian Bight Marine Park, which are managed and funded in a joint agreement between the State and Commonwealth Governments.

Anyone wishing to report a distressed whale or an incident involving a marine mammal within waters or on the coast of the Eyre Peninsula are encouraged to call either the Far West District Duty Ranger on 8625 3144 or the Eyre District Duty Ranger on 8688 3223.

For more information on whale watching regulations please visit: Environment.sa.gov.au whale watching regulations.

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