Most of us know dolphins are social aquatic mammals that breathe through their lungs, not gills. That means they have to swim to the surface frequently to get a big gulp of air - and that means we get to see them up close and personal.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment has drawn up guidelines to ensure these amazing creatures are left to their own devices and free from harm. Here’s some simple pointers.
If you’re in a recreational boat, keep your distance. That means 100m away from the front of and behind of dolphins and 200m away from a whale. You should also leave any encounters to chance, and if you’re on a jet ski, a 300m distance is mandatory. It is illegal to deliberately position your boat in the path of dolphins, whales or seals and any illegal interactions under the Wildlife Act 1975 will result in a fine up to $6000 or a six-month prison term. Ouch!
(If you’re surfing or swimming remember that dolphins, whales or seals may see you as a threat, so don’t get any closer than 30m from a dolphin or 50m from a whale).
Ticonderoga Bay, from Police Point to Nepean Rock, is a protected sanctuary zone. Boats can enter (without exceeding 5knots within 200m of shore) but must always maintain their distance from dolphins. The best way to really see these creatures is to choose a licensed tour operator who is permitted to approach dolphins and seals subject to a range of strict operating conditions. Alternatively use some binoculars - and remember dolphins don’t know who you are and may feel threatened. They have been known to attack. And NEVER feed them! Some animals (remember last edition’s seagull story?) become dependent and aggressive when they don’t get what they expect.
So, still want to see or swim with dolphins? Of course, you do, but be careful. And if you see any trapped, sick or injured dolphins or whales contact the Whale and Dolphin Emergency Hotline on 1300 136 017 or the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s Customer Service Centre for seals or penguins on 136 186.
Respect your local wildlife. It’s the only one we’ve got.