Marine mammal watching in NSW
Whales, dolphins, dugongs, seals and sea lions are protected in NSW. Keep these animals and your vessel safe – follow these rules when watching or approaching them.
Keep your distance
All vessels must keep a minimum distance and reduce speed when near marine mammals.
Whales, dolphins and dugongs
Powerboats, sailing boats and paddlecraft must keep a minimum distance from whales of:
- 100m, or
- 300m if there are calves.
You must travel at a constant slow speed and leave minimal wash within 300m of whales.
You must keep a minimum distance from dolphins and dugongs of:
- 50m, or
- 150m if there are calves.
You must travel at a constant slow speed and leave minimal wash within 150m of dolphins and dugongs.
If you're driving a personal watercraft (PWC), you must keep a minimum distance of 300m from whales, dolphins and dugongs. PWC can make fast and erratic movements and less noise underwater than other vessels. This means PWC are more likely to collide with a marine mammal.
If there are predominantly white whales, all vessels, including PWC, must keep a distance of 500m.
Seals and sea lions
All vessels, including PWC, must keep a minimum distance from seals and sea lions of:
- 10m, or
- 80m if there are pups.
Approaching whales, dolphins and dugongs
When approaching whales, dolphins and dugongs, you must keep minimum distances. You should start your approach at an angle of at least 30 degrees to their direction of travel. This helps you avoid cutting across their path or putting your vessel directly in front of or behind them.
If there are other vessels approaching, wait your turn. No more than 2 vessels should approach at a time.
If an animal approaches your vessel:
- Stop or slow down to minimise your wash.
- Move away or disengage your vessel's gears.
- Avoid making any sudden movement.
- Minimise noise.