The Palaszczuk Government has given the go-ahead for the popular ‘swimming with whales” program to become a permanent fixture in Hervey Bay, after an incident-free three-year trial.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the Government’s decision to whale watching industry operators in Hervey Bay on Sunday 10thSeptember at the start of her week of Governing Queensland from the Wide Bay region.
Ms Palaszczuk said the go-ahead will greatly enhance Hervey Bay’s enviable reputation as a whale-watchers paradise.
“Hervey Bay and the Fraser Coast is now recognised as the whale watching capital of the world, where from July till October, whales and their calves come in from the open ocean to rest and play on their way back to Antarctica.
“People travel here from all over Queensland, interstate and overseas for their chance to get up close and personal with the magnificent animals.
“Securing the future of “swimming with whales” tours is also a fitting way to mark the 30th anniversary, this year of the first whale watching venture in the Bay.
“This premium offering will maintain and further boost the industry’s growth in giving tourists some wonderful personal experiences.
“Tourism Research Australia data shows a 6.8% increase in international visitors to Queensland in the year to March this year – with a 15.1% increase in the Wide Bay region.
“More than 150,000 international and 595,000 domestic visitors have injected $330 million into the local economy during this time.
“This shows that my government’s commitment to tourism is creating real economic benefits and jobs for Queenslanders.”
Around 30,000 humpback are migrating along the Queensland coast this year. Thousands of whales and their new calves will stop over in Hervey Bay on their way back to Antarctica.
The Department of National Parks had considered whale conservation and swimmers safety during a three-year trial of the activity.
National Parks Minister, Steven Miles said the Department was happy with the way the trial had gone, and approved the aquatic activity continuing on.
“While it’s an activity with some risks, no incidents occurred during the trial,” Mr Miles said.
“Swimming with whales is proving a very popular product, in the range of Hervey Bay’s many attractions, and I’m delighted to know it can continue on.”
In the year ending March 2017, an estimated 123,000 domestic visitors to Queensland went whale or dolphin watching.
Of the 11 boats currently operating in the Fraser Coast whale watching fleet, six are licenced to offer the “swimming with whales” experience.
The industry’s strict code of practice ensures the giant mammals’ welfare and conservation are paramount, and any encounters must be solely on the whales’ terms.
Queensland legislation means that neither boats nor swimmers can approach within a 100 metre radius of a whale or dolphin. However curious whales may approach swimmers and often do.
The operators put their passengers on a boom net, duckboard or a mermaid line with floats that swimmers can hold onto.
Mr Miles warns this is a regulated and professionally run activity, with penalties in place for those who do the wrong thing.
‘Don’t attempt swimming with these giants of the deep on your own – you risk injury, and a $630.75 on-the-spot fine or maximum $15,138 penalty for approaching whales too closely,” Mr Miles said.