TWO men have risked their lives and their bank balances by paddling too close to a southern right whale and her calf off Hillarys.
Drone footage shot this morning shows one of the men drifting over the adult whale in his pink kayak.
The adult whale then lifts her tail flukes to the surface and appears to touch the man’s kayak.
Michael Mccormick, 28, was on his way home from a surf when he spotted the kayakers and decided to put his drone in the air.
“The whale had a calf around it and I just thought they shouldn’t really be that close,” Mr Mccormick said.
“The police came through with their boat and they got their loudspeaker out and told them to go away.
“The rules are stay 100m from whales. That’s what the police were saying over loud speaker.”
Mr Mccormick said the police pulled alongside the paddlers, but he was not sure if they took any further action.
“The whales are normally pretty protective so that’s why I got the drone out because I thought something might happen,” he said.
“If it slapped its tail it would have been a pretty hard it.”
The mother and calf are believed to be the same whales which have delighted onlookers in Perth in recent weeks.
State government marine park coordinator Mel Evans issued a statement about them last month, warning people to keep their distance as they migrated south to cooler waters.
“The mother and calf appear to be in excellent physical condition and are displaying normal behaviours like spy hopping, logging and waving,” Ms Evans said.
“Viewing whales is best done from the higher vantage points on the mainland, rather than from vessels which are required to remain a safe distance of at least 100m from the animal.
“In the case of southern right whales, they are currently enjoying spending time in the shallow protected waters of the Marmion coastline and can easily be seen from the many lookouts along West Coast Drive.”
Southern right whales have special protections under the Wildlife Conservation Act.
Disturbing them or interfering with them can lead to fines of up to $10,000.
“These regulations are in place to protect not only the public but also the animal from any unnecessary distress and disturbance as they pass through busy waters along the coastline,” Ms Evans said.
Ms Evans said the whales spent a considerable amount of time resting near the surface close to shore.
Getting too close could cause them to leave the area, ruining the experience for responsible whale watchers.
There are rules in WA for any vessel – motor, sail or paddle – which comes within a 300m “contact zone” around a whale.
- A vessel must not cause a whale to alter its direction or speed of travel.
- A vessel must not disperse or separate a group of whales.
- A vessel, whether under power or drifting, must not approach a whale from a direction within an arc of 60 degrees of the whale’s direction of travel or an arc of 60 degrees of the whale’s opposite direction of travel.
- A vessel must not approach a whale within a distance of 100m (except licensed ‘RESEARCH’ vessels in particular circumstances).
- Where a whale approaches a vessel and the distance between the whale and the vessel becomes less than 100m, the vessel master must place its motor or motors in neutral or move the vessel at less than five knots away from the whale until the vessel is outside the contact zone.
- A vessel must not block the direction of travel of a whale, or any passage of escape available to a whale, from an area where escape is otherwise prevented by a barrier, shallow water, vessel or some other obstacle to the whale’s free passage.
- A vessel master must abandon any interactions with a whale at any sign of the whale becoming disturbed or alarmed.
Southern right whales, listed as a threatened species by the WA government, were devastated by the state’s now-defunct whaling industry.
They were called “right” whales because they moved slowly and their carcasses tended to float, making them the “right” whales to hunt.
Albany’s last whaling station was shut down in 1978.
Adult southern right whales can grow to 18m long and weigh up to 80t.
A tail slap could easily kill a human.