Environment SA News

Its whale-watching season: remember to give them space

Whale-watchers are reminded to keep their distance from whales during their breeding season, with about half-a-dozen southern right whales recently spotted off the lower Eyre Peninsula coast.

Its whale-watching season: remember to give them space
Southern right whale mother and calf. Picture taken in 2018.

Between May and October each year whales are found in large numbers along Far West Coast Marine Park at Head of Bight, Encounter Marine Park at Victor Harbor, as well as off the coast along the Eyre Peninsula, with peak season between June and September.

National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia Eyre Peninsula District Ranger Peter Wilkins said, each year during the cooler months whales migrate to South Australia’s waters to mate, give birth and nurse their calves.

“Most South Australian whale sightings are southern right whales and sometimes humpback whales. Recently southern right whales and their calves have been spotted at Sleaford Bay and Fowlers Bay on the Eyre Peninsula,” Mr Wilkins said.

“While the whales are in Australian waters, the mothers do not feed and instead use stored body fats to produce milk for their calves and for energy to protect their young.

“It is very important that the whales are not disturbed by overly keen onlookers when they are nursing their young.

“Boats must stay at least 100m away from a whale and 300m from whales with calves, and jet skis and drones must remain at least 300m from whales.

“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 in a marine park without a permit.

“The buzzing of a drone above a whale can result in agitated behaviour leading to deep diving, which can disturb the feeding of calves.”

Mr Wilkins added that visitors can enjoy watching these magnificent whales breaching, body-rolling and tail-lobbing from on-shore viewing platforms, or by booking a boat tour with a private tour operator.

For whale-watching tips read the Good Living blog.

To report a whale in distress or an incident involving a marine mammal on the Eyre Peninsula call the Eyre District Duty Ranger on 8688 3223.

To help protect the whales in South Australian waters there are approach limits in place. Generally, vessels must not approach closer than 100m, but where whale calves are present and in more sensitive areas in Encounter Bayand Head of Bight, additional restrictions apply. Drone operators must not fly their drone within 300m of a whale. Expiation fees of $315 apply if people do not adhere to these limits.