Watching whales within safe limits

With the annual whale migration season in full swing along the south coast, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is reminding all boaties and those on the water to respectfully watch these creatures from afar.

Mother-and-calf southern right whales (Eubalaena australis). Image taken from 100 metres with 7x optical zoom

NPWS Area Manager Jo Issaverdis said this reminder comes after an incident where a small boat purposely approached a whale off Burrewarra Point, north of Broulee.

'While we are looking into this incident, our key message is one of education and awareness,' Ms Issaverdis said.

'We urge boaties, surfers, swimmers and everyone on the water to please give the whales space, and stay at least 100 meters away in all directions.

'This rule is in place to keep both the whales safe and the community safe.

'Adult humpbacks can weigh up to 35 tonnes and if frightened or threatened, can cause serious damage to vessels, passengers and swimmers.

'We understand why people want to get a closer look at these majestic creatures, but the reality is that interfering with the whale migration and getting too close is risky and unsafe for all.

'There are so many great vantage points from the coast where people can watch one of world’s great migrations, and with more than 35,000 humpbacks expected to pass the coast this season, you're guaranteed to see some,' Ms Issaverdis said.

Under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 all watercraft, including boats, surfboards, surf skis and kayaks must stay at least 100 m from a whale, and at least 300 m if a calf is present.

Restrictions also apply to swimmers, snorkellers, divers and those in the water, who must stay at least 30 m from a whale. There are also restrictions for aircraft, including drones.

From May to November each year, humpback whales make the annual migration from Antarctic waters to Queensland to calve, while southern right whales tend to stay in NSW’s protected bays and beaches to nurture their young.

For more information on approach distances, please visit the NSW Environment website.

For information on whale watching vantage points along the South Coast’s National Parks and Reserves, visit the NPWS website.