New restrictions on whale watching
THE Federal Government is considering imposing tough new restrictions on whale watching operators in Northern NSW and South-East Queensland.
A disturbing increase in the number of baby humpbacks beaching themselves during the northern migrations is believed to be behind the proposed changes.
Under the new legislation, no more permits would be granted to run whale-watching businesses and operators no longer would be able to interrupt the northern migration in open ocean.
All operators also will be required to follow the same guidelines imposed on boat owners in Hervey Bay, which is the only port on the south east coast recognised as a "whale sanctuary".
According to Hervey Bay Whale Watch owner Jill Perry, whose husband Brian sits on a committee with Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, operators and politicians are concerned "every town with a river mouth or beach" is now running whale-watching tours.
She said about 90% of female humpbacks were pregnant when they embarked on their annual migration and "harassing" the whales while they were in transit could be extremely detrimental to their health.
Hervey Bay MP Ted Sorensen called for State and Federal Governments to introduce a "once-size-fits-all" rule book.
"Here, there are rules about safe distances and interacting with the whales which simply don't exist in other parts of Australia," Mr Sorensen said
"The same rules need to apply everywhere - we need to be on the same playing field."
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke confirmed he was considering the proposed changes could not say if or when they would be adopted by the Australian Government.