Environment SA News

Whale watching season open across SA

South Australia’s whale watching season has officially commenced, with sightings of humpback whales throughout Encounter Marine Park in the past week.

Whale watching season open across SA
A pod of whales at the Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area

Large numbers of whales can be seen in the area each year between May and October.

Whales, generally either humpbacks or southern right whales, can also be sighted along Far West Coast Marine Park at Head of Bight, as well as off the coast along both the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas.

The Coorong coast is also an important whale migratory pathway.

National Parks and Wildlife Service Senior Ranger Nikki Zanardo said the annual migration of whales to South Australian waters occurs during the cooler months, which is when they mate, give birth and nurse their young.

“Whale-watching is a fantastic nature-based experience, and about 400,000 people take part in the activity each year in SA,” she said.

“You can enjoy watching these magnificent whales breaching, body-rolling and tail-slapping from on-shore viewing platforms at both the Head of Bight and Victor Harbor area, or by booking a boat tour with a private tour operator.

Ms Zanardo said in order to help protect whales in SA 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 such as in Encounter Bay, there is a 300m limit,” she said.

Operators must not fly drones within 300m of a whale. Expiation fees apply if people do not adhere to these limits.

These rules are intended to minimise disturbance to marine mammals and allow the animals to rest and conserve their energy.

The reminder comes after National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) rangers last year issued an expiation notice to a person who used a drone to photograph a whale mother and calf resting in the Encounter Bay Sanctuary Zone at Basham Beach within Encounter Marine Park.

Signs were in place throughout the area advising whale watchers of the rules around drone use.

Southern Right Whales are listed as endangered species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

For more information check out the SA Whale Centre website at www.sawhalecentre.com.au. For whale-watching tips read the department’s Good Living blog.