What a flippin’ disgrace
Humpback pests go scot-free
firstname.lastname@example.org BOATIES and jetski hoons who harass humpback whales could find themselves named and shamed on social media this migration season.
That might be their only punishment because the Bulletin can reveal the Environment Department did not fine any boaties in the entire state last year despite multiple reports of breaches which could have attracted fines up to $20,000.
Now Gold Coast whale researchers say they are going name and shame high seas cowboys after claiming the government is “turning a blind eye” to rule-breakers.
Co-founder of Humpbacks and Highrises research group Dr Jan-Olaf Meynecke said he was frustrated the government wasn’t enforcing rules designed to keep boaties and the animals safe.
“Last year we documented with photographs multiple breaches of the regulations,” Dr Meynecke said.
“Unfortunately even with photographs and licence numbers these breaches don’t seem to be enforced. There are also no marine parks staff out there to actually enforce the regulations on the spot.”
Among the breaches he witnessed were jet-skis disregarding the 300m exclusion zone around a group of baby whales.
“I see that a blind eye is put on this very critical issue,” Dr Meynecke said.
“We had newborn calves approached by jet-skiers by only a few meters.
“My guess is that a lot of people are uneducated about the regulations or simply don’t care.”
Dr Meynecke said people were at risk of getting crushed by the ocean giants.
“Not only can the consequences be threatening for the whales but also deadly for people as seen a number of times when boats hit whales.”
Excited skippers hassled whales so badly last year the State Environment Minister Steven Miles gave Migaloo, the rare albino whale, a government escort.
With a post-whaling record of 27,000 whales due to travel past the city from now until November this year, the problem is only expected to get worse.
Whales in Paradise owner Anthony Ardern said tour operators largely followed the rules but some private boat owners were cowboys. He said some took advantage of a lack of enforcement to get close to the whales.
“The only cowboys are the people who flout the rules and get as close as they can to the animals,” Mr Ardern said.
“If you’ve got six or eight people in the boat the fine works out cheaper than going on a tour.”
A playful baby whale breaching off the Gold Coast. Picture: SEA WORLD WHALE WATCH