Visitors get an amazing view onboard one of the local whale-watching vessels in Hervey Bay this season.
Visitors get an amazing view onboard one of the local whale-watching vessels in Hervey Bay this season. Luke Barrowcliffe

Review threatens whale watching

THE Fraser Coast whale-watching industry could be under threat from a State Government review.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) is now looking at three options in a review of commercial whale-watching across the state.

One of these is for an option of no regulations, allowing anyone with a boat to conduct commercial whale-watching tours in Queensland.

Tourism Fraser Coast chief executive Damien Massingham said this suggestion was environmentally irresponsible and showed no understanding or consideration of the protection of humpback whales.

"The review not only provides open slather for whale-watch tours, but also allows an option for whale-watching permits in state waters outside of marine parks, which would significantly disturb migratory patterns of whales and increase the likelihood of collision between vessels and whales," he said.

Mr Massingham said the proposed options would lead to humpback cows and calves being surrounded by thousands of vessels on their migration, such as jet skis or jet boats.

The three options proposed in the review are:

1. Allow commercial whale-watching in state waters outside of marine parks, without the requirement of a permit.

2. Allow commercial whale-watching in state waters outside of marine parks, managed through a permitting system, proximity restrictions and special management declarations.

3. Do not allow commercial whale-watching in state waters outside of marine parks (i.e. maintain status quo).

Mr Massingham said options one and two ignored scientific facts "that disturbing whale migration impacts on the growth of whale numbers which are still recovering from near extinction".

DERM had asked for submissions on the proposal.

Mr Massingham said anyone wishing to protect both the whales and Fraser Coast whale-watching should go to marine.mammals@derm.qld.gov.au, and indicate that option three was the preferred option in part one of the review.


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