Guidelines

Whale watching guidelines

Crowds flock to the Fleurieu coastline, admiring the visiting Southern Right Whales during whale season, from June to October.  To ensure the safety of our marine life, there are some important guidelines and laws to follow.

Vessels

Personal watercraft (including Jet Ski) are prohibited from launching and must not operate within the Victor Harbor Restricted Area during whale season. 

In all waters outside of the Restricted Area, PWC (Jet Ski) must not move closer than 100 metres to a whale and closer than 50 metres to any other marine mammal (dolphins, seals etc)

Encounter Bay and Victor Harbor Restricted Areas

Personal watercraft (including Jet Ski) Must not move closer than 300 metres to a whale if there are already two vessels within the 300 metre zone or if the whale is:

  • A calf
  • Stranded
  • Entangled or Incapacitated
  • Showing Signs of Disturbance OR
  • Appears Sick or Injured


Personal watercraft (including Jet Ski) Must not move closer than 150 metres to any other marine mammal (dolphins, seals etc) if there are already two vessels within 150 metres of the marine mammal or the marine mammal is:

  • A calf or pup
  • Stranded
  • Entangled or Incapacitated
  • Showing Signs of Disturbance OR
  • Appears Sick or Injured


Within the Encounter Bay Restricted Area, all vessels must maintain a minimum distance of 300 metres from a whale. Vessels outside of the Restricted Area must not move a vessel closer than 100 metres from a whale and must not move a vessel closer than 50 metres from any other marine mammal (dolphins, seals etc).

Vessels in all waters must get no closer than 300m to a whale with a calf, or a whale showing signs of disturbance.

Vessels in all waters must get no closer than 150m to any other marine mammal with offspring, or showing signs of disturbance. 

If a vessel unexpectedly finds itself in breach of the minimum distance(s) they must; 

a) Move away from the mammal at a slow “no-wake” speed of less than 4 knots.

or

b) In the event that the mammal is too close to safely move away, a vessel may cut it’s motor and wait until it is safe to do so.

A vessel may not drop anchor, and may not wait longer than a 60 minute time frame within breach of the minimum distance.

A vessel is not permitted to follow a whale, or position itself in front of an approaching whale.

Image of Motor Vessel Whale Guidelines

Aircraft

In South Australia regulations apply to the viewing of marine mammals. Regulations require aircraft (including Remote Piloted Aircraft such as drones) to maintain a minimum distance of 300 metres from whales. Aircraft at the minimum distance must not hover over the animal and whales must not be approached by RPA from the front. Under the National Parks and Wildlife Regulations 2016, anyone flying a remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA) in SA’s national parks, reserves and marine park restricted access zones must have a permit.
Image of Plane Distance Guidelines Whales

External Resources

Infringement reports

To report any whale watching infringements, including vessel/aircraft within the whale approach limits, please report it to the relevant authorities.

Infringement reports and images can be forwarded to Marine Parks at marineparks@sa.gov.au or phone (08) 8204 1910.

Enjoy whale watching - From a distance

The Department of the Environment and Energy is reminding the general public to keep a safe distance when observing whales this season.