Boaties and aircraft operators have been reminded to steer clear of any white whale they happen to spot in Queensland waters – whether or not it’s the mighty Migaloo – or risk a twenty-thousand-dollar fine.
Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said the Queensland Government’s Special Management Declarations applied to Migaloo and any other humpback whale that was more than 90 per cent white.
“These are special management marine mammals which means boats and prohibited vessels must not approach within 500 metres and aircraft cannot approach within 610 metres without authorisation,” Dr Miles said.
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“These rules are in place to protect the whales and give them safe passage during their migration along the Queensland coast.”
Dr Miles’ warning follows media reports of helicopters, charter boats, drones and research vessels all out to get a glimpse of a white whale which was reported off the Gold Coast yesterday.
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“It’s what every whale watcher dreams of, but it is really important that this animal’s space is respected and no undue distress is caused,” Dr Miles said.
“So far EHP is aware of one complaint which is being investigated and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is monitoring the whale today to make sure that everyone is doing the right thing.”
Dr Miles said the white whale was reported to be smaller than Migaloo but there was no way of knowing without genetic testing whether they were related.
Members of the public who are concerned vessels may be approaching too close to humpback whales are asked to contact EHP on 1300 130 372 so that the matter can be investigated.
Wildlife officers from EHP will also be partnering with the Queensland Police Service and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to conduct on-water compliance inspections of approach limits during the whale migration season.
The maximum penalty for intentionally moving too close to a whale is $20,113.50 or an on the spot fine of $609.