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Near misses risking lives

12 August 2011

Boat collides with whale

Keen whale watchers have recently witnessed a number of incidents where boats have had to swerve at the last minute to avoid colliding with the semi submerged mammals.

Heightened vigilance is needed during whale season – May to October – to avoid encounters dangerous to both boaties and whales.

Whales and all other marine mammals are protected in South Australian waters and heavy fines can result if they are harmed.

Getting too close to whales is illegal and can also be dangerous as a whale, particularly a female with a young calf, can feel threatened and react unexpectedly.

Signs that a whale is stressed include frequent diving, spending a longer time below the surface, increasing speed, repeatedly changing directions and frequent water spurts and tail slaps, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, animal welfare manager Deborah Kelly said.

The following tips are suggested during whale season:

always keep watch, whales can stay submerged for long periods and pop up unexpectedly

avoid sudden changes of speed or direction

avoid high-speed activities - specific rules apply to the operation of personal water craft (PWC such as jet skis, wave-runners) near whales and dolphins because their speed and manoeuvrability can pose greater risks

if you encounter whales reduce speed immediately and change direction.

Both state and federal laws set out distances boats, swimmers and aircraft must remain from whales. View the National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals - Marine Mammals) Regulations 2010 for the state legislation.

The approach limit for whale watching in Encounter Bay is 300 meters because this is a nursery area.