Whale Watching Guidelines Set by Great Barrier Reef Authorities
By Athena Yenko | June 25, 2014 5:00 PM EST
Fifteen species of whales make a delightful spectacle along the Great Barrier Reef but Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's species conservation manager, Mark Read, reminds whale watchers to keep a safe distance from the creatures.
Racing overtime, the World Wildlife Fund and the Australian Marine Conservation Society have merged together to create a conservation campaign, primarily geared towards political leaders, in a futile attempt to save the Great Barrier Reef from being delisted off its World Heritage status.
Humpback whales, dwarf minke whales, false killer whales, killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, sperm whales and beaked whales are becoming more popular as research topics and entertainments for commercial whale watching. Hence, these species are open to possible risks involving humans and vessels.
"Vessels need to stay more than 100 metres away from a whale, while in the Whitsundays Whale Protection Area the distance is 300 metres. If a whale approaches the vessel, operators must keep the motor out of gear and wait for the whales to move away before motoring away, " Read said in a statement.
Humans are also advised against making sudden noise and making abrupt change of speed and directions.
People are advised to keep quiet when near a whale and to move away as soon as possible if a change in the whale's behaviour is seen, especially when it shows agitated behaviour.
"The number of humpback whales is growing annually by 10 to 11 per cent, so one of the best things we can do to reduce the risk to the whales and the people watching them is to abide by approach distances.
Read noted that humpback whales, which frequent the Reef from May to September, are now multiplying from the previous count of 200-500 to around 17,000 - 19,000. With this, safety around this specie is greatly encouraged.
"These giants of the deep never cease to amaze, even for people like whale researchers or tourism operators who are lucky enough to have interactions with them each year. But given the growth in recreational vessel registrations and the popularity of commercial whale watching, it's becoming increasingly important for people to abide by approach distances.
Read said that people are not being prevented from whale watching.
"The more people who see these magical creatures, the more it reinforces the message that it's important to protect them and the surroundings that support them. Their sheer size makes them one of the most iconic elements of the Marine Park's rich biodiversity."
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