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Whale watching

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 feeding, breeding, and migratory behaviors.

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.

In the Water

  • Within the Encounter Bay Restricted Area: All vessels – no closer than 300m 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 300m.
  • Prescribed vessels (high-powered craft such as jet-skis, hydrofoils, and boats used for water skiing or paragliding): never closer than 300m.
    • Other vessels (for example, cabin cruisers, yachts, ‘tinnies’, inflatables, kayaks, windsurfers and kite surfers) outside of Encounter Bay Restricted Area: no closer than 100m
    • 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 300m from any whale or other marine mammals (additional Civil Aviation Safety Authority restrictions apply).
  • Helicopters and gyrocopters must be at least 500m from any whale or other marine mammals.