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Keep your distance and enjoy the experience!

News release
12 August 2014

Strap on the binoculars and get to the Head of the Bight on Eyre Peninsula!

That’s the tip from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources as the whale watching season ramps up on the Far West Coast. According to Dirk Holman, Manager of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park, it’s going to be a bumper year for whale watching, the season starting now and running to the end of August.

“Already we have about 40 whales at the head of the Bight, and we anticipate up to 200 whales will be in the area late July and into August as they move into the warmer waters off the South Australian coast to calve,” Dirk said.

“A southern right-whale mother and white calf were observed in Proper Bay near Tulka on the weekend, a group of ten have been sighted offshore near the SA/WA border, and a mother and calf (see photograph) were sighted offshore near Point Sinclair recently.”

Dirk says viewing whales can be very rewarding, and visitors to the Head of the Bight Whale Watching Centre about 290 kilometres west of Ceduna should take some simple precautions.

“Binoculars and cameras with a decent zoom lens are pretty useful for whale watching, and I want to remind whale watchers to take care of their own safety along the cliff tops, keeping to designated lookouts and boardwalks. Many cliffs are overhung and could collapse at any time,” he warns.

“The vegetation and soil structure along the cliffs are also very fragile and can be damaged by foot and vehicle traffic.

“In the harsh conditions of South Australia’s West Coast it takes plants and soil a long time to recover from human impacts,” he added.

“It’s also timely to remind everyone that there are regulated safe distances for boats and aircraft when whales are around - rules which are designed to protect the safety of the operators and welfare of the whales,” he said.

“In a boat you must be at least 100 metres away from a whale and are not allowed to approach them. Jet skis are not allowed within 300 metres of any marine mammal and it is the responsibility of the driver of any vessel to maintain a distance.

“If approached by a whale, slowly move away at a speed no greater than 4 knots.

“Whales may appear slow and gentle but they can easily overpower boats with their speed, particularly when surfacing from below.

“Whales are at risk of propeller strike, becoming entangled in nets or ropes, or becoming distressed by boats that come too close. A frightened calf could become permanently separated from its mother, which would be fatal,” Dirk said.

Averaging about 15m in length and weighing up to 80 tonnes, the southern right whale is one of the most common whale species seen in Australia’s coastal waters as their population recovers following protection.

View a guide to watching marine mammals.

Reports of boats getting too close to whales can be sent in to the Duty Ranger on 8688 3223 (Port Lincoln) or 0428 253 144 (Ceduna).

Contact us for more information or to report a whale sighting.

More information

Media Advisor

08 8688 3121