Threat to humpback swim trips
Exmouth’s humpback whale swims may be in jeopardy.
Since the beginning of the trial, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions prohibited humpback whale tour operators from approaching pods with a calf.
The DBCA said the 2016 conditions defined a calf as a whale half the length of its mother.
“While this definition was based on best available knowledge at the time, it resulted in some interactions occurring with groups of whales that had calves that were larger than half the length of adult whales, thus going against the intent of the licence condition to exclude interactions with calves,” the DBCA said.
After recent research, a calf has been redefined as any whale twothirds the length of its mother.
The Pilbara News understands the change will reduce the number of pods people can swim with so dramatically it will no longer be economically viable for operators to continue to offer the swims after the trial is finished.
“Whale shark tour operators were consulted regarding proposed changes to the licence conditions for the 2017 trial season, and other changes made were in direct response to those operators’ feedback,” the DBCA said.
“As the in-water interaction with humpback whales is a trial, any impact of the changed licence conditions will be assessed at the end of the 2017 season.”
Operators have been calling for changes to give them a better chance of successful whale interactions for months.
In January, Ningaloo Discovery owner Matt Oakley said operators would like to see changes, such as a trial of swimming with mothers and calves.
“It’s done in other parts of the world without any incident to my knowledge,” he said.
North West Central MLA Vince Catania said red tape was killing these tour opportunities.