Whales are heavier than even the fines meant to protect them
GENTLE giants they may appear to be, but that is the illusion the State Government was anxious to dispel as more than 33,000 humpback whales, many weighing in excess of 40 tonnes, begin their annual migration along the Queensland Coast.
Department of Environment and Science staff have been targeting boat ramps in recent weeks talking with water users about whale season safety and handing out 'share the water' stickers.
Jet skis and other personal water craft were not permitted within 300 metres of whales at any time. The penalty for intentionally moving too close to a whale is an on-the-spot fine of $630.75, or a maximum fine of $20,814.
Department of Environment and Science Southern Wildlife manager Frank Mills said jet skiers and other water users needed to understand that while rules and stiff penalties were in place to protect the whales, anyone who ventured too close was putting their own life at danger to an unpredictable marine mammal.
"The rules are there to protect our whales, and it's also a matter of human safety," Mr Mills said.
"Put aside the 'gentle giant' tag - these are unpredictable animals. You don't want a creature the size of a city bus crashing down on you or hitting you with its massive flippers or tail, often that are edged in sharp barnacles."
Mr Mills said anyone witnessing someone getting too close to a whale should send details to the department of Environment and Science at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The more information provided - such as photos and video - the better chance we have of taking compliance action if its warranted," Mr Mills said.
"A Sunshine Coast woman was fined $630 for an offence in 2017 after she rode a jet ski within 300 metres of a whale. Members of the public alerted DES and sent us details that helped the investigation."
Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said it was important that people on jet skis, paddle boards and boats played it safe.
"With the school holidays starting, our coastal waters are expected to be busy with people enjoying Queensland's mild winter conditions," Ms Enoch said.
"Our waters will also be hosting thousands of 40-tonne humpback whales heading north on their annual migration.
"Too often I hear about risky behaviour by people, including reports from the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast this season with paddlers, riders and skippers being seen putting themselves in the path of whales.
"We need to show respect to these giants of the ocean and make sure that any interactions are safe and responsible."