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Viewing marine mammals

Maintaining the legal distance from marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and seals is important, both for our safety and that of the animals.

The animals may be seriously injured if they are struck by a vessel or frightened young may become separated from their mothers. Even if there is no contact, coming too close can disrupt resting, feeding, breeding, and migratory behaviours.

Regular water users should make themselves familiar with all the rules for interacting with marine mammals by viewing the National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals – Marine Mammals) Regulations 2010.

Expiation fees of $315 apply should people contravene these rules.

Whale Watching

In the water

  • Within the Encounter Bay Restricted Area (see Schedule 1 – Encounter Bay Restricted Area): All vessels – no closer than 300 m to a whale.
  • Whale calves: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300m.
  • Distressed, stranded or entangled whales: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300 m.
  • Prescribed vessels (high-powered craft such as jet-skis, hydrofoils, and boats used for water skiing or paragliding): never closer than 300 m.
    • Other vessels (for example, cabin cruisers, yachts, ‘tinnies’, inflatables, kayaks, windsurfers and kite surfers) outside of Encounter Bay Restricted Area: no closer than 100 m
    • Other vessels within 300m of a whale: no anchoring; maximum speed 4 knots; maximum time 60 minutes.
  • Swimmers (including surfers and boogie boarders): no closer than 30m.

On land

  • No closer than 30m (or 50m if the whale is distressed, stranded or entangled).

In the air

  • Planes and remotely piloted aircraft (drones) must be at least 300 m from any whale or other marine mammals (additional Civil Aviation Safety Authority restrictions apply).
  • Helicopters and gyrocopters must be at least 500 m from any whale or other marine mammals.

Other Marine Mammals (dolphins and seals)

In the water

  • All vessels – no closer than 50m to a dolphin and seal.
  • Prescribed vessels (high-powered craft such as jet-skis, hydrofoils and boats used for water skiing or paragliding): no closer than 300m.
  • Vessels must not anchor within 150m of a seal.
  • Distressed, stranded or entangled dolphins or seals: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 150m.
  • Swimmers (including surfers and boogie boarders): no closer than 30m.

On land

  • No closer than 30m

In the air

  • Planes and remotely piloted aircraft (drones) must be at least 300m from any marine mammal (additional Civil Aviation Safety Authority restrictions apply).
  • Helicopters and gyrocopters must be at least 500m from any marine mammal.