Fraser Coast boaties warned to watch out for whales
AS Hervey Bay's humpback whale watching season gets under way, Fraser Coast boaties are being warned it could cost them hundreds or even thousands of dollars if they get too close to the protected mammals.
Peter Lynch, skipper of Hervey Bay's Blue Dolphin, said he had already seen boaties and a person on a jet ski get far too close to whales on their annual migration.
That included one person who drove their boat right over the top of a humpback as people aboard commercial whale watching boats watched on.
Mr Lynch also saw another boat and a jet ski get within 20 metres of a whale.
He said recreational water users and boaties would need to be vigilant, especially as the whale population continues to increase.
Mike Joyce, Manager Southern Operations in the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, said the risks to boaties and whales increased each year as numbers recovered from near-extinction in the 1960s.
More than 27,000 humpback whales and other whale species moved along the Queensland coast from now under December.
"Humpbacks are moving along the coast day and night during the migration, and can surface at any time without warning," Mr Joyce said.
"These are unpredictable, 40-tonne mammals and you don't want to get in their way.
"Humpbacks are known to nudge boats, and also to slap their tails when close to vessels, or leap out of the water when breaching.
"Southern right whales are also turning up in our waters.
"If your vessel does strike a whale you are required to complete a marine incident report for Maritime Safety Queensland, and also report the incident to a conservation officer."
Incidents can be reported to the RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL.
For most whales and dolphins, the exclusion zone is 300 metres for jetskis and 100 metres for other vessels, unless three vessels are already in the area, in which case the limit is 300 metres.
For special interest whales like Migaloo, the white humpback, the exclusion zone is 500 metres for jet skis and boats.
"There's a $630 on-the-spot fine for getting too close, and a maximum penalty of $20,814 for special interest whales such as Migaloo the white whale," Mr Joyce said.