Dolphin & Whale Watching Guidelines
The Queensland Government Department of Environment & Science has rules about how we view marine animals in their natural habitat to protect our wildlife and penalties apply to those who disregard these rules.
The above table demonstrates the guidelines which are applicable for all boats, jet skis, hovercraft, aircraft, helicopters, and people who are in the water.
The ‘caution’ zone is an area surrounding a whale or dolphin in which boats cannot travel at speeds of more than six knots or speeds that create a wake. The caution zone extends out 300 metres from a whale, and 150 metres for a dolphin.
No approach zones
Within a caution zone, there are areas designated as ‘no approach’ zones that boats cannot enter. These are the areas closest to an animal and directly in front of and behind an animal. For a whale, the no approach zone surrounds the animal for 100 metres and extends 300 metres in front of and behind the animal. For dolphins, the no approach zone surrounds the animal for 50 metres and extends 150 metres in front of and behind the animal.
The ‘3-boat rule.’
A boat cannot enter a caution zone if three boats are already present within the caution zone of an animal. If there are boats waiting to enter a caution zone, boats inside the zone should ‘share the water’ by moving away after they have had an opportunity to watch a whale or a dolphin.
When a marine mammal approaches a boat
If a whale approaches a boat so that the boat is within the caution zone, the boat must not operate at speed more than six knots or at a speed that creates a wake. If a whale approaches a boat so that the boat is within the no approach zone, the operator of the boat must turn its engines off or disengage its gears.
If a dolphin approaches a boat within the caution zone or the no approach zone, a moving boat can continue on its way as long as any change in speed or direction is made gradually in a way that is unlikely to disturb the dolphin, particularly if it is bow-riding. The boat may even slow down or stop to watch the dolphin, providing it does so in a way that does not disturb it.