The Honourable Kate Jones
GIVE MIGALOO AND OTHER WHALES SPACE TO SWIM
Acting Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Annastasia Palaszczuk has declared Migaloo a "special interest" whale, granting him more space to ensure he can swim freely and safely if and when he arrives in Queensland waters.
"There have been unconfirmed sightings on the New South Wales coast so he could be on his way," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"While we're all hoping to get a glimpse of this famous white whale, it's important to remember that Migaloo and all the whales travelling up our coast at this time of year need to be given room to move.
"Getting too close to Migaloo and other whales could cost boaties big fines, as well as risking their safety."
Ms Palaszczuk joined the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service vessel the MV Mirrigimpa today as it patrolled the Gold Coast to make sure boaties kept their distance.
"The 'special interest' whale declaration means no-one can bring a boat or jet ski closer than 500m or fly an aircraft closer than 2,000ft to the whale without written permission," she said.
"If these conditions are breached, the maximum penalty is $16,500.
"Aircraft pilots, skippers, swimmers and snorkellers need to respect the special limits around these unusually coloured whales but there are restrictions around all whales and they need to be observed.
"If you are out whale watching this winter you need to remember to keep at least 300 metres away from all other whales.
"This is about safety for people as well as for the whales, some of which weigh more than a fully loaded semi-trailer. It's important to give them a wide berth."
Ms Palaszczuk said Migaloo moved quite quickly, and in previous seasons had been seen as far north as Cairns. Last year the first Queensland sighting was off Burleigh on 1 July, but he has arrived earlier in some years.
"Last year he kept a low profile and there were only a few unconfirmed sightings once he got into Queensland waters, one off Fitzroy Reef off the central Queensland coast in mid July," she said.
"His unusual colouring makes him easy to track, giving scientists valuable information about whale migration.
"The first reported sighting of Migaloo was in 1991 off Byron Bay, when he was three to five years old.
"In 2008 and 2009 another white whale was spotted in Queensland waters and was named Bahloo. It has a few black spots on its head and tail, but we don't know much more about it."
Ms Palaszczuk said an estimated 12,000-13,000 humpback whales were expected to migrate along the east coast as they headed north to the warm tropical waters where many of the females would give birth.
"It's estimated their numbers are increasing by about 10 per cent each year and if we don't harass them on their journey they should keep returning for us to enjoy year after year," she said.
"We're so lucky to have this natural spectacular right on our doorstep, just in time for the school holidays.
"By observing these simple regulations, we should all be able to enjoy a safe whale watching season.
"Please remember that people who impede whales other than the 'special interest' animals still risk a hefty $12,000 penalty. On-the-spot fines ranging from $300 to $500 may also apply for various contraventions of the conservation plan."
These regulations apply to all whales:
• boats cannot go any closer than 100 metres from a whale;
• personal watercraft (jet skis etc) are not permitted closer than 300m at any time.
• in the whale protection zone of the Whitsunday, Lindeman and Gloucester island groups where many whales deliver their calves, no boat can go closer than 300 metres;
• boats cannot go any closer than 300 metres to a whale if three or more boats are already closer than 300 metres to a whale;
• boats cannot go any closer than 300 metres if moving in a similar direction to or behind a whale, moving at more than four knots; and
• swimmers should exercise caution and move carefully away if a whale approaches or surfaces near them.
"The rules apply in State and Commonwealth waters, and they apply whether you're operating your own yacht or cruiser, a fishing charter, a trawler, or a commercial whale-watching boat," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"You don't have to get out on the water to get a good look at the passing parade - there are loads of great vantage points from here on the Gold Coast right up to the Far North.
"Any headland will give you a good view and popular spots include Moreton Bay near Brisbane, Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island, Slade Point at Mackay, the Whitsundays and of course Hervey Bay."
Anyone who sights Migaloo or other white whales is encouraged to report the sighting to the Department of Environment and Resource Management on 1300 130 372.
Information about whales, the regulations and whale-watching season is at www.derm.qld.gov.au