Know your approach zones
2010 was an absolutely year amazing for whales and seals in NSW (in fact the whole east coast had a cracker), we had visits from really uncommon Antarctic species such as crab-eater seals and leopard seals, we saw more Orca and Southern Right Whales than at any time in the past twenty years - and 2011 is expected to be even better.
Most of the community share our love of these majestic and interesting animals and for the most part take pictures whilst keeping their distance and disturbance of the animal to a minimum.
These seals and whales have after all, come a long way and do need to rest and chill some before moving back south.
There's been some underwater footage making its way around the internet that has concerned me greatly; the film on YouTube shot on the NSW south coast, involving a Southern Right Whale clearly shows the snorkeller closer than the legally permissible distance of 30m for a swimmer. As Southern Right Whale behaviour can be completely unpredictable the swimmers' proximity to the whale is extremely dangerous.
There are numerous examples of divers that have suffered the consequences of being too close to whales. When in the water with these animals we are in their element, so that means we have to make sure we don't harass them or attempt to approach closer than the legal distance, both for your safety and the welfare of the whale. Remember if they are too harassed they may not be so inclined to visit our shores again!
Geoff Ross is the Marine Mammal expert for NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.