UP to 25,000 whales are expected to cruise along the Mid North Coast on their annual migration north with June tipped to be the peak time for sightings.
However, Leigh Mansfield said there are rules of engagement when it comes to venturing out on to the water to view the giants of the deep.
The Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching 2005 outline the standards that allow people to observe and interact with whales and dolphins in a way that ensures animals are not harmed.
The rules are:
- Be alert and watch for whales and dolphins at all times.
- When in a vessel, do not approach closer than 100m to any whale or 50m to any dolphin.
- The caution zone for vessels is the area within 300m of a whale and 150m of a dolphin. No more than three vessels are allowed within the caution zone at any one time and vessels should operate at no wake speeds within this zone.
- Approach whales and dolphins from parallel to and slightly to the rear - not from directly behind or head-on.
- When leaving whales or dolphins, move off at a slow (no wake) speed to the outer limit of the caution zone (300m) from the closest animal before gradually increasing speed.
- Keep a lookout and avoid disturbance to mother whales or dolphins and their calves. Mother and calf will be close together and the calves are sometimes difficult to see.
- If there is a sudden change in whale or dolphin behaviour, move away immediately at a slow steady pace.
- Whales and dolphins sometimes form social groupings and may approach your vessel - if this happens place the engine in neutral and let the animal(s) come to you; or slow down and continue on course; or steer a straight course away from them.
- Do not get into the water if you see a whale or dolphin. If you're already in the water do not disturb, chase or block the path of a whale or dolphin and if possible, return to your vessel or the shore.
Mid North Coast residents can expect to see a variety of whale species this year according to Mr Mansfield, including humpbacks, minkes, killer whales, southern right whales and brydes whales.
On their journey north, whales will begin to calve around Jervis Bay and head as far as Hervey Bay with their young.
They will commence their return south in August.
”From beginning of May we’ve seen about 12 whales so far. There were four passing the Port Macquarie coastline on Thursday (May 18),” Mr Mansfield said.
“Whale watching season will really kick off in June and will go right through until the end of October.”
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