From late last week, a haze of smoke from the island burn has blanketed Hervey Bay.
From late last week, a haze of smoke from the island burn has blanketed Hervey Bay. Alistair Brightman

Whale watching operator furious about smoke on water

THE back-burning operation on Big Woody Island is hurting whale watching operators, according to Hervey Bay's most experienced whale watcher.

From late last week, a thick haze of smoke from the island burn has blanketed Hervey Bay.

Quick Cat II operator Jill Perry says she had lost customers because of the huge amount of smoke in the air.

"Customers that were booked to go whale watching have cancelled and left town because it's hard to breathe in the smoke," she said.

"The customers we have had out have come back coughing."

Ms Perry slammed the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for their poor timing on the burns.

"I have no idea why they would burn during the whale watching season," she said.

"If Big Woody catches fire nothing will happen; the only thing that's on it is a lighthouse.

Department of National Parks, Recreation Wide Bay area manager Alan Dyball said planned burns were done in the cooler months to reduce hazardous fuel loads.

"Woody Island is recognised as a cultural landscape containing various cultural assets including two heritage-listed timber lighthouses built in 1866, the remains of the light-keeper's cottage, grave site, old telegraph line, and other European and indigenous cultural values," he said.

"The islands are also home to an abundance of wildlife and the less intense winter burns create a mosaic landscape of old and new ecosystems and favourable conditions for natural forest regeneration.

"The burns on Fraser Island also protect visitors, townships and other infrastructure from intense summer wildfires."

Ms Perry said the narrow time that whales were in the bay needed to be fully utilised.

"We've only got three months to see the whales and make money," she said.

However Ms Perry said the season had been fantastic so far.

"It's been great because we've had some fabulous weather and the Seafood Festival last week bought a lot of people in to town so we were kept busy," she said.

"Up here is different to everywhere else because the whales also go people watching."

On Friday, a young whale calf believed to be only hours old was spotted in the bay.



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