ON THE back of a busy season for Gold Coast and Tweed whale watchers, Queensland Environment Minister Vicky Darling has announced further protections for special interest whales.
The all-white humpback Migaloo is one of the special whales that will now have extra protection until December 31, 2011.
Bringing a boat or jet ski closer than 500 metres or an aircraft closer than 2000 feet to a special interest whale without written permission now brings fines up to $16,500.
Coolangatta Whale Watcher owner Carol Hunt is pleased these restrictions are in place.
“You’ve got to have these rules and regulations or else everyone will jump on top of them,” Ms Hunt said.
“You actually get the best of whales when you stand off and wait.
“Once they get used to you, they quite often come right over.”
This whale season is one of the biggest in years, with about 14,000 whales coming up the east coast – a 10% increase on last year.
“While this increase is good news for conservation and for tourism, it also means encounters with whales are more likely,” Ms Hunt said.
Ms Darling said although there would be more whale encounters, the Queensland Government was ensuring they would be incident free.
“Any skipper who gets too close to a whale puts themselves, their passengers and the whale at risk, and also risks facing a fine,” she said
The special interest status applies to whales with 90% or more white coloration.
For all other whales, the standard distance is 100m for a boat. The maximum penalty for intentionally moving closer is $12,000, with on-the-spot fines ranging from $300 to $500.