A WARRNAMBOOL table tennis coach has copped a $400 serve after riding a friend's jet-ski too close to a whale and her calf in the Logans Beach exclusion zone.
Douglas Ian McRae, 22, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court to entering and remaining in the Logans Beach exclusion zone and travelling at more than five knots within 300 metres of a whale.
He was not convicted, but placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond and ordered to pay $400 to the court fund as well as $72.50 costs.
McRae told wildlife officers and the court this week that he had not seen a whale while riding the jet-ski.
Environment and Sustainability Department compliance officer Stan Williams told the court that about 1.15pm on August 9 last year McRae entered the exclusion zone and was near a southern right whale and her calf when the animals submerged.
He said several witnesses had reported the incident and photographs were provided to wildlife officers. There were three other whales and a calf in the exclusion zone at the time, he said .
Defence counsel John Perry said his client had never been in trouble before and it was the first time - and would be the last - McRae had ridden his friend's jet-ski.
He said McRae was unaware of the exclusion zone or the presence of any whales on the day.
Mr Williams said the offending was at the lower end of the scale. Previously, a Warrnambool whale watching charter operator was fined $1000 without conviction for entering the exclusion zone.
Magistrate Jonathan Klestadt said he was aware of the concerns of all members of the community in relation to the exclusion zone and protection of the whales.
He said the offence was potentially extraordinarily serious and Warrnambool tourism relied on the magnificent animals.
Mr Klestadt said it was a case of ignorance rather than wilful disregard but just as a resident McRae should have been aware he had entered the exclusion zone.