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Operation Cetus to protect whales and people

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Wild About Whales
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Whale watching, Montague Island Nature Reserve. Photo: S.Cohen/OEH

Operation Cetus is in the process of being introduced in NSW. It is being managed cooperatively within NSW by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), NSW Water Police, the Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and Maritime NSW and concerns the interactions between people in boats and migrating whales.

NPWS Head, Sally Barnes, said the operation aimed to make both the general public and commercial whale watching tour operators aware that there are strict rules about how close you should get to whales and dolphins and other encounters with these animals.

“Whale numbers are growing steadily and so is the business of whale watching. We definitely want to encourage both but we also want to ensure that this occurs safely. Ms Barnes said.

Ms Barnes said that collisions between boats and whales can be devastating, for boats particularly but they are certainly not good for the whale either.

“In the most simple terms, boats are not allowed to approach within 100 metres of a whale and if there is a calf present that limit is set at 300 metres. There are more details about approach distances which people need to make themselves aware of and they can be obtained on the environment website,” Ms Barnes said.

People caught not complying with the regulations in NSW waters are liable to very heavy penalties.

A copy of the NSW Whale watching regulations can be obtained on the Office of Environment and Heritage website. Breaches of these regulations can be reported to OEH on the Environment Line 131 555.

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