Tag Archives: IFAW

Watch Out, Whales About!

It’s that time of year again

In honour of IFAW’s National Whale Day today, I decided to celebrate the fact that the annual Humpback Whale migration has returned to Australia.  They’ve been spotted from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast in the East, and Augusta on the West Coast.  And the season is just beginning.

Humpback whales migrate annually from their winter feeding grounds in the krill-rich Antarctic to warmer waters where they breed and give birth.  In Australia we are fortunate that the whale migration comes closer to shore than most places in the Southern Hemisphere.  The best place to see the migration on the East Coast is either on a dedicated whale-watching tour or (from personal experience) North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, where the whales are forced closer to land by the current they follow North.  I haven’t been out Humpback whale watching on the West Coast yet, but I’ve spent some time studying Humpback whales as a volunteer for the University of Queensland, and I can tell you firsthand that it is truly amazing to see these animals in the wild.  Around 13-17,000 whales are expected to make the trip along the East Coast this year, so there are plenty to go around!  Most will return the same way from September onwards, mums playing with their new calves and males still trying to impress the females with their songs.  In fact, I personally think it’s better to see them on their southward migrations, since the whales aren’t quite so intent on reaching colder waters as the warmer ones earlier in the year!

But please keep your distance

The theme of this year’s National Whale Day is awareness.  According to IFAW there has been a rise in incidents involving deliberate or accidental harassment of whales and dolphins in our waters, and injuries from vessel strikes.  Come on guys, pay attention.  During migration the whales will encounter many dangers, mostly man-made.  These include fish traps, shark nets, strikes from pleasure vessels and increased shipping traffic hazards. As well as killer whale attacks and other nasty things.  That’s why it’s important to respect distancing regulations, keep your speed and your noise down, and watch out for whales when you’re out on the water.

Whales are big.  They are heavy (did you see what happened when one breached on a yacht not so long ago?).  Whales can also be unpredictable, so anyone who gets too close is putting themselves and the whale at risk.  Boats are required to keep at least 100 metres away from any whales; jet skis and other personal watercraft must stay up to 300 metres away.   In the whale protection zone of the Whitsunday, Lindeman and Gloucester Islands groups (where many whales deliver their calves), no boat can go closer than 300 metres.  The maximum penalty for intentionally moving closer to a whale than permitted under the conservation plan is $12,000, and on-the-spot fines ranging from $300-$500 may also apply for various contraventions.  The rules for ‘special interest’ whales like Migaloo or the white whale calf seen last year, are even stricter: no-one can bring a boat or jet ski closer than 500m or fly an aircraft closer than 2,000ft to these whales without written permission.  The maximum penalty for getting too close to a white whale is $16,500.

I don’t have that sort of cash lying around, do you?

There’s nothing quite like seeing wild animals in the wild, especially some as magnificent as the Humpback whales.  After all, they’re the iconic species that helped start the global movement against whaling and towards protection of our natural environment.  So love them, get out there and watch them, but please give them the space they need.

Humpback whale fluke up dive.  Image from University of Queensland

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National Whale Day 2012 (Australia) – Saturday 02 June

I didn’t realise this was happening until almost too late! Time to go find out where my nearest whale-themed event will be… 

National Whale Day 2012 – Saturday 02 June

National Whale Day logo

Save the Date! IFAW’s fifth National Whale Day is on Saturday 02 June.

What is National Whale Day?

Launched in 2008 by IFAW, National Whale Day is a celebration of the whales and dolphins that migrate to our coastlines annually and Australia’s position as a world leader in whale conservation.

National Whale Day provides an opportunity to raise awreness of, and discsuss solutions to, the threats facing whales and their environment including commercial whaling, climate change, vessel strikes, noise pollution, marine debris and bycatch.

Since 2008 communities around Australia have joined in National Whale Day by holding events such as paddle outs, whale watch trips, talks, exhibitions, beach cleanups and performances.

National Whale Day 02 June 2012  

We are asking that people keep watch – you may just be treated to the show of a lifetime. But please keep your distance – there are regulations around how close you can get to whales and dolphins. These rules are in place to protect people as well as marine mammals and keep it down – both noise and speed should be kept to a minimum on the water when around whales.

Australians love water and if they can’t be in it, they want to be on it – in boats, on boards or jet skis. Recently we have seen a rise in incidents involving deliberate or accidental harrassment of whales and dolphins in our waters, and injuries from vessel strikes.The theme this year aims to encourage responsible behaviour on our waters around whales and dolphins by keeping watch . Why not use wind, wave or paddle powered craft, such as sail boats, sail boards, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, etc around your local coastline to celebrate the day?

Around National Whale Day, we will provide practical information and educational material to vessel owners and recreational water users so that they know how best to enjoy seeing these incredible creatures in the wild without disturbing them or breaching regulations. Event groups will be supported by IFAW with material, merchandise and messaging for the day.

How can you get involved? 

Humpback Icon Project (HIP) communities and councils around the country will be holding events and IFAW encourages anyone who loves whales and the water to participate.

Find out if your community is running an event (see map below), if not create one! Send in your details and we’ll register you. There is no registration fee and once registered , you will receive your National Whale Day kit – t-shirt, stickers, posters and media kit. All for free!

For more information or to register:

Rachel Kathriner at rkathriner@ifaw.org or on             02 9288 4973      

If you have previously taken part in National Whale Day and would like to participate again this year, please contact Rachel to register for 2012.

National Whale Day 2012 events

Wondering how else you can get involved in this year’s National Whale Day? Use the map below to find out where your nearest National Whale Day event is:

National Whale Day Events Map


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