Boaties reminded to give white whales a wide berth
As Queensland's whale watchers keep a weather eye peeled for a glimpse of white wonder Migaloo, Environment and Heritage Protection Minister Andrew Powell has reminded boaties to give him plenty of room.
"Migaloo and any other whale with 90 per cent or more white colouration has been declared to be of 'special interest' - a declaration that gives these rare and beautiful animals the best chance to continue their journey unimpeded, while also ensuring people are not put at risk.
"While I appreciate how keen we all are to get a glimpse of this amazing creature, the declaration means no-one can bring a boat or jetski closer than 500 metres or fly an aircraft closer than 2000 feet to the whale without authorisation.
"For all other whales the standard distance is 100 metres for a single boat, 300 metres if there are three or more boats at the location, 300 metres within the whale protection zone of the Whitsunday, Lindeman and Gloucester islands groups, and 300 metres for jet skis," Mr Powell said.
Mr Powell said around 17,000 whales were expected to travel along the Queensland coast this year.
"With the numbers of whales visiting our waters increasing each year encounters with whales are more likely," he said.
"The safest place for inexperienced people to observe migrating whales is from a whale-watching tour vessel or from vantage points on land like North Stradbroke Island and Cape Moreton.
"We're all hoping to catch a glimpse of Migaloo or the white calf which was seen for the first time last year and there's no doubt that the annual whale migration is one of the great spectacles of nature.
"Even if you don't see a white whale, there's nothing to match the sight of these magnificent creatures, but they are wild animals and can be unpredictable."
Under the whale and dolphin conservation plan, the maximum penalty for intentionally being closer than permitted to a whale is $12,000 and on-the-spot fines ranging from $300 to $500 may also apply.
Declared special interest whales, such as white whales like Migaloo, attract bigger fines, up to $16,500.