Respect marine mammal’s personal space

News article |

As we approach the time when southern-right and humpback whales will be migrating past our shores, the winter breeding season for the Australian sea lions and the dispersal of long-nosed fur seals away from their breeding areas, we ask that you respect our marine mammals and don’t put them, or yourselves, in danger.

Regulations to protect marine mammals in South Australia have recently been updated to enforce their protection.

The updated National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals—Marine Mammals) Regulations 2010 outline restrictions on approaching marine mammals when encountering them on land or on water, minimum distances to be kept from injured marine mammals, and on-the-spot fines for those who disrespect or endanger our marine mammals.

The updated regulations mean that:

• Recreational vessels (including motorised and sailing vessels) must not approach whales closer than 100 m and dolphins and seals closer than 50 m, a speed restriction of no more than 4 knots is to be observed if on approach to / departing the area from a marine mammal

• Jet skis and other jet propelled vessels must not move closer than 300 m from whales, dolphins or seals

• Swimmers and surfers must not approach whales, dolphins or seals closer than 30 m

• All swimmers, surfers and vessels must remain more than 150 m away from a dolphin or seal that is injured, distressed, entangled or with a calf or pup, and 300 m from a whale in one of those situations

• Aircraft, including drones, are not be flown closer than 300 m above a marine mammal

• Walkers, their dogs and all vehicles must remain more than 30 m away from a seal or sea lion, 50 m if the animal is injured or unwell.

If approached by a marine mammal while on the water:

• Put your engine in neutral and let the animal come to you

• Do not engage propellers until they move off

• Make no sudden movements and continue on a slow, straight course where possible.

Fines and penalties of up to $100,000 are enforceable for breaches of the regulations.

Department for Environment and Water’s Senior Ranger - Coast and Marine on KI, Tanya Rosewarne said that the new marine mammal regulations are there for both the animal’s and the public’s safety.

“While it is amazing to see these mammals in their natural habitat, it is important not to disturb them, particularly if they are nursing their young,” Ms Rosewarne said.

“If a marine mammal emerges close to your vessel, it’s important that you slow down and come to a stop until the animal moves away. It is illegal to intentionally follow the animal closer than the required approach distance.”

“And if you see a seal or sea lion on land, that is coming ashore to rest make sure you stay the required distance away. Everyone enjoys their personal space, our marine mammals are no different, especially while trying to sleep!”

“If you need a reminder of the distances we have produced a handy sticker to place inside your sea-going vessel to guide you should you encounter a marine mammal. These will be available from the Natural Resources Centre, 37 Dauncey Street, Kingscote from the end of May.”

The poster can also be downloaded here

If you spot a whale in the waters of SA and would like to aid research into their movements, please inform the SA Whale Centre

If you spot an animal, marine or otherwise, in pain or distress around KI please report it to the Natural Resources Centre, 37 Dauncey Street, Kingscote on 8553 4444 or contact the Parks Duty Officer on 0477 334 898.

For more information, including details about marine mammal approach restrictions visit:

The complete version of updated National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals—Marine Mammals) Regulations 2010 can be found here:

More stories

  1. Black from the brink: new glossy census reveals island population remains stable after bushfire

    News article | 09 Jan. 2024
  2. Native plant knowledge a growth industry thanks to special revegetation workshop

    News article | 15 Nov. 2023
  3. Come and learn about the work of the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board at a special event in Kingscote

    News article | 27 Oct. 2023