PEOPLE venturing down to the West Coast for whale watching this season are being reminded to enjoy observing the whales from a distance.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is asking people to keep their distance from whales to ensure they remain relaxed in their natural habitat.
This warning comes after the first whale of the season was recently spotted at the Head of the Bight.
DENR Animal Welfare Manager Deb Kelly said there are some safety tips people should consider when engaging in this popular pastime this season.
“Whales may be disturbed by human vessels, such as boats, surfboards, jet skis or aircraft, and this can be stressful for the animal,” she said.
“If conducted responsibly, water based activities such as fishing and surfing can continue to take place in areas where whales are visiting, this means respecting their space and avoid getting too close to any whales present.”
Dr Kelly also recommends if anyone does find themselves too close to a whale when they are in their boat, they should either cut their motor or move away from the whale.
Signs a whale may be stressed include frequent dives, longer periods spent underwater, increased speed, repeatedly changing direction and frequent water spurts or tail slaps.
People also must adhere to the ‘whale approach guidelines’ under the Marine Mammal Regulations 2010, which includes boats keeping a distance of 100 metres from whales and keeping a distance of 300 metres if it is showing distress or has a calf.
People can expect to see DENR rangers patrolling waters throughout the state during migration season to ensure approach guidelines are being met.
Fowlers Bay Eco Park does whale tours throughout the season and are permitted by DENR to go within the allowed limits.
Eco Park manager Rod Keogh said they allow the whales to settle into the waters before they do any observation.
“Each season we allow the whales to settle in the bay before we go out to observe them,” he said.
Despite the need for regulations, Dr Kelly said most people end up doing the right thing to avoid distressing whales.
“From our experience, most people do the right thing to prevent whales from being harassed or chased by people,” she said.
“Even if you are on the water for another purpose, such as fishing, please give whales space.”