Tuesday 31 May 2011

Jurisdictions unite to protect whales

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has announced the establishment of a national program to monitor and enforce whale protection legislation in Australia.

Operation CETUS is a partnership between Commonwealth, state and territory agencies designed ensure that boating activities, aircraft, swimmers and divers do not interfere with whale species that visit our waters each winter.

Humpback and southern right whales, in particular, come close to shore at this time of year. The main reason they undertake their long journeys is to breed.  Both species are still recovering from severe over-exploitation by the whaling industry and it is critical that they are allowed to complete their migrations without injury, stress or harassment.

Whales generate a lot of public interest and both commercial and recreational whale watching have grown enormously in the past two decades.  People can have a thrilling experience in the presence of whales while still following the regulations for approach distances and general behaviour.  Unfortunately there are those who take a selfish approach and in so doing place the whales, and themselves, at considerable risk.

Operation CETUS is part of the Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators neTwork (AELERT) which has been set up to provide more effective environmental regulatory compliance across different jurisdictions.

Approach distances can vary in different locations and for different species.  As a general rule, the closest allowable approach distance to a whale or pod is 100 metres for up to three vessels, with all additional vessels required to stay at a distance of at least 300 metres, so that the animals do not become boxed-in.  The AWCS recommends that boat operators and others always familiarise themselves with the regulations in the local area before engaging in whale watching activities.

More information about AELERT can be found at www.aelert.com.au.


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