Cau­tion urged around mi­grat­ing hump­backs

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

Ocean-go­ers are be­ing urged to give hump­back whales space as they make their an­nual mi­gra­tion up the WA coast to mate.

With sight­ings of the gi­ants pick­ing up off the Nin­ga­loo and Pil­bara coast, res­i­dents and tourists are pin­ing to go out and catch a glimpse.

While swim­ming with hump­back whales with reg­is­tered op­er­a­tors off the Nin­ga­loo Coast is per­mit­ted be­tween Au­gust and Novem­ber this year, the prac­tice is il­le­gal out­side of these tours.

Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tion and At­trac­tions con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer Dani Rob said trained op­er­a­tors knew how to min­imise risks, which was im­por­tant when deal­ing with large wild an­i­mals.

“Through­out the whole Pil­bara re­gion it is im­por­tant boat own­ers know how to ma­noeu­vre ves­sels around whales,” she said.

“Re­cent re­search has shown that as soon as a ves­sel is within 300m of a whale it af­fects their be­hav­iour.

“Hump­backs are a fight-not­flight an­i­mal, so if they feel su­per threat­ened they will lash out.

“It is an ex­cit­ing time of year and we do en­cour­age peo­ple to get out and watch them, but be mind­ful.”

Ms Rob said some whale calves had al­ready been re­ported with pro­pel­ler in­juries off the Ex­mouth coast this year.

Ves­sels are re­quired to stay at least 100m away from whales, drive slowly and not move in front or be­hind the an­i­mal.

It is also il­le­gal for drones to be flown within 1000ft above any cetacean, and per­mis­sion is re­quired to fly drones above na­tional and marine parks such as Nin­ga­loo.

Ms Robb said in­jured whales should be re­ported to au­thor­i­ties, and in­di­vid­u­als should not at­tempt to help them­selves.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

A hump­back whale mother and her calf.

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