Whale pods visiting Coffs

THE Coffs Coast is being graced by the presence of a large pod of whales that has spent most of this morning hanging around the north side of Muttonbird Island.

The visit created quite a stir with lots of boats out on the water to take a look, prompting Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to remind boat skippers to keep a safe distance from marine mammals.

Acting general manager Maritime Operations, Trevor Williams, said there was a legal requirement for skippers - both recreational and commercial - to maintain a safe distance from all marine mammals.

"There are guidelines to protect marine mammals and these are enforced by RMS and National Parks and Wildlife Service officers," he said.

"Skippers need to respect whales' size and space requirements for the safety of all involved.

"Vessels must always travel at a safe speed which will enable them to stop in time to avoid distressing or colliding with an animal.

"This speed cannot be expressed as a maximum number of knots as it will vary according to the circumstances and conditions.

He said it was also important for boat operators to be fair in allowing others to view the same pod of whales.

"Only three boats are permitted to be inside the viewing circle - 100m for whales and 300m from calves - at any one time.

"For safety reasons, skippers of any other vessels in the vicinity must be reasonable and wait their turn.

"Boats must not approach any closer than 100 metres from a whale or whale pod or 300 metres from a mother whale and calf.

"Fixed wing aircraft must not approach any closer than 300 metres and helicopters no closer than 500 metres."



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