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Responsible Whale Watching – Code of Practice

With winter approaching, Australians will again be in the box seat for one of the world’s great natural wonders – the annual whale migration. So, it is time to start thinking about Responsible Whale Watching on the water.

As more and more Australians are discovering, it can be a humbling and awe-inspiring experience to see one of these huge marine mammals in the wild.

We need to take care and be sensitive to their welfare and environment.

How to Spot a Whale

Look for a spout in the distance or a breach where the whale may launch itself clear out of the water.

As we come across these gentle giants while on the water, we will relax, slow down our boat speed and respect their space.

And remember, let these giants amaze you, surprise you, and understand that you have been lucky enough to see an endangered species roaming free.

Sydney Eco Whale Watching Practices Responsible Whale Watching

We understanding that we need to minimise disturbance to the whales

It is important to understand and to follow the NSW Maritime & NSW National Parks & Wildlife Guidelines. This is to protect the animals and their environment.

The guidelines are:

Minimum Distances :

  • Minimum Distance for a boat / craft to be near a whale / whale pod is 100 metres.
  • Minimum Distance for a boat /craft to be near a mother & Calf is 200 metres.
  • Minimum Distance for an aircraft or helicopter is 300 metres.

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How to Approach the Whale Pod

  1. Assess the Direction the Whale Pod is Travelling.
  2. Move Slowly / Reduce Your Speed.– Move slowly / reduce your speed as you move toward the whale / whale pod.
  3. Keep Your Distance.

    – Keep your Minimum Distance for a boat to be near a whale / whale pod is 100 metres.
    – Keep your Minimum Distance for a boat to be near a mother & Calf is 300 metres.
    – Remember these distances are manditory.
    – If in Doubt about how far away you should keep your distance from the whales or whale pod, the further away, the safer for you and the whales.
    – All boats and craft must reduce their speed.
  4. No Chasing From Behind or Blocking Ahead of the Whales.– There is a no waiting / approach zone and a no chasing / approach zone to be observed.
    – Boats / craft must not block or wait in the 30 degree zone in the path ahead of the whales swimming direction.
    – You Must not approach / chase a whale or whale pod in the 30 degree zone behind the whale.
  5. How to Enter / Exit the Whale Watching Circle.– All boats / craft must enter and exit in a single line as shown in the figure below.
    – If there are other boats in the whale watching circle, All boats / craft must form a single line behind each other.
    – If there are other boats / craft already in the Whale watching circle, all boats / craft joining must enter the whale watching circle from behind the last boat in the circle.
    – You must not enter directly from the side of the boat line causing navigation issues.
    – If you want to leave the whale watching circle, turn away from the whales / whale pod.
    – Keep well clear of the direction the whales / whale pod is travelling.
  6. What Happens if a Whale Approachs Our Boat.– If a whale approaches the boat, place engine into neutral and remain stationery.
  7. Whales Frequently Change Direction

    – Whales are wild animals and can frequently change direction. keep a vigilant lookout and be prepared to alter your course to keep the minimum manditory distances.
  8. Swimming with the Whales

    – No Swimming with the whales, seals or dolphins is allowed in any circumstance.

We are sensitively aware that they are our visitors and all care should be taken to ensure the Whales have a safe and enjoyable stay!

The Responsible Whale Watching Code of Practice is for your safety and the whales safety and wellbeing.

National Parks & Wildflife Service Whale Watching Information

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