With a bumper whale watching season only days away, Spirit of Gold Coast is educating guests to be aware of marine mammal safety with the launch of their unique campaign titled ‘Help Us to Help Our Whales’.
The animal conservation campaign aims to encourage guests on board Spirit of Gold Coast to protect whales by reporting infringements made by recreational vessels encountered while on the whale watching expedition.
Guests aboard the Spirit of Gold Coast will be able to use information cards on board to report infringements and any activity on the ocean that could be endangering to the whales.
Spirit of Gold Coast spokesperson Angela Del Bianco said all boats and recreational vessels in Queensland are required to maintain a distance of 100 metres from a whale or dolphin, while jet skis, jet boats and hovercrafts must not approach within 300 metres.
All vessels must abide by a ‘caution zone’ of 300 metres around a whale in which boats cannot travel at speeds of more than six knots or any speed creating a wake, while boats must not approach from in front of, or behind the animal.
“The safety and well-being of whales is very important to Spirit of Gold Coast, and every season we record and report all infringements that we see out on the Humpback Highway, whether it is a jet ski coming too close, or a boat cutting across the path of a whale,” Ms Del Bianco said.
“Last season, we saw more recreational vessels than ever out on the ocean and these vessels must abide by the rules to ensure that not only can they safely enjoy the amazing privilege of watching the whales, but crucially that the humpbacks can prosper in our waters without being disturbed.
“As our guests come onboard with Spirit, we are asking them to help us in this mission by taking the time to observe and report if they see anything that could endanger our whales,” she said.
Guests can follow three simple steps to report an incident to authorities, including noting details of what happened, contacting the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, and consulting relevant online resources for more information if required.
Spirit of Gold Coast crew are trained to assist guests in making an accurate report with details of the date, time, location, and vessel responsible, along with a full description of how the whales were affected, supported by any photo or video evidence.
Vessel strike is one of the main threats to whale populations worldwide with Australia accounting for almost 15 per cent of worldwide incidents, an increase of 8 per cent previously reported. (1)
It is estimated that vessel strike rates go largely unreported due to fear of infringement, highlighting the need to evaluate and monitor the human threat to the 30,000 Humpback Whales expected to pass by Gold Coast this year.
Studies in recent years indicate that for populations in certain areas, up to one third of whales found dead display signs of having died due to a collision with a boat or ship. Severe injuries may mean that a whale dies as a result many years later, which can also have an impact on the animal’s social group. (2)
There is an average 10 per cent increase in the number of whales that pass the Gold Coast each year, often venturing close to the Seaway where they come in contact with smaller recreational vehicles and water sports.
To reduce the number of marine mammals injured as a result of vessel strike, boat operators are
reminded to adhere to approach distances and caution zones while keeping a diligent lookout of their surroundings and reduce speed.
Together with their guests, Spirit of Gold Coast envision contributing in a positive light to educate and inform whale watchers of the guidelines in place to protect and preserve the majestic marine mammals that pass through Gold Coast waters.