Whale breaches: authorities probe reports of exclusion zone offences 

THREE incidents involving boats getting too close to whales in the south-west over the weekend have led to the Department of Sustainability (DSE) and Environment to warn people to keep their distance or face fines. 

They come after two incidents last month at Port Fairy’s East Beach the DSE is also investigating.

The Standard reported this week that a Trentham man could be facing fines of up to $2500 after allegedly approaching within a matter of metres of a whale at Port Fairy on Friday.

The DSE has also received information about “two further incidents in Port Fairy and Portland over the weekend involving different vessels”, according to DSE South West program compliance manager Mark Breguet.

“We had further reports from Portland on Saturday where a boat was less than 50 metres from a whale,” he said. 

“Also, there were kayakers and swimmers in Port Fairy on Saturday who were close to a whale at East Beach. We’ve still got to follow those up with a few witnesses, but they were reportedly close enough to consider the legislation’s been breached.”

The incidents at East Beach on Friday and Saturday are the third and fourth to have occurred in that area this season, Mr Breguet said.

“There have been another two boat-related incidents that we’re still following up on, both at Port Fairy, about three weeks ago.”

Mr Breguet said the excuse of a whale popping up close to your boat might be acceptable further out to sea but it didn’t seem to apply in these cases.

“You could say that if you were out further, but not at East Beach. The whales are very visible, so I don’t believe (that excuse).”

He said the recent spate of incidents indicated some people needed a wake-up call, especially at this time of year when the whales are around and warmer weather was increasing the amount of activity on the water.

“Many of our marine mammals are threatened species with rules and regulations in place to protect them so they aren’t impacted by the activities of humans in their natural habitat,” he said.

“If people are not willing to meet their legal responsibilities and they approach a whale, dolphin or seal at a distance closer than the law allows, they will be penalised.”

The chance of getting close to visiting southern right whales is proving irresistible to some south-west boat owners.

The chance of getting close to visiting southern right whales is proving irresistible to some south-west boat owners.