What a flip­pin’ dis­grace

Hump­back pests go scot-free

The Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS -

ni­cholas.mcel­roy@news.com.au 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

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