Mills Whale Watching Charters has taken the responsible step of achieving a hard earned accreditation with the Tourism Council of Western Australia. The overriding concept is that of sustainable tourism – in essence a documented quality management system to establish, benchmark, measure, improve and sustain a high degree of professionalism in our Whale Watching business – all geared at ensuring the customer is fully satisfied with the product and service they receive, and all in an environmentally responsible, safe and sustainable way.
The standards have been developed by the Australian Tourism Accreditation Authority and include:
- Adherence to Whale Watching industry standards and codes of practice,
- Compliance with Whale Watching business and industry regulations,
- Development of business and marketing plans,
- Implementation of policy and procedures relating to human resources, customer service and the environment.
Activities in the Australian Whale Sanctuary that may impact on whales, dolphins and porpoises may require a permit. It is an offence to kill a whale, dolphin or porpoise in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. It is also an offence to injure, take, trade, keep, move, harass, chase, herd, tag, mark or brand a whale, dolphin or porpoise in the Australian Whale Sanctuary without a permit. Permits may only be issued by the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources after appropriate consideration of all impacts of the activity has been taken into account. Permits cannot be issued to kill a whale, dolphin or porpoise or to take one for live display.
The offences relating to whales, dolphins and porpoises also apply to Australian citizens outside of Australia, including in other countries and international waters.As well as the general protection offered to whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, the EPBC Act also provides additional protection for many cetacean species throughout all of Australia’s waters. Approval is required to undertake any action that may have a significant impact on one of these species, the Australian Government undertakes a rigorous assessment and approval process to ensure potential impacts are avoided or minimised on such actions.
The Australian Government also works closely with industry to develop guidelines that aim to ensure that potential impacts on whales and dolphins are avoided. For example, the ‘Guidelines on the application of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to interactions between offshore seismic operations and larger cetaceans’ describe the procedures required to avoid or minimise impacts on whales from seismic survey activities. These guidelines are currently being reviewed to ensure ongoing best practice.
Whale Conservation Initiatives
The Australian Government is working on a number of national initiatives aimed at improving cetacean conservation. This work involves close collaboration with state and territory governments, researchers and conservation groups to provide improved protection for whales. These include:
Stranded Sampling Protocol
National standards for the collection of biological samples from stranded whales are being developed to improve scientific knowledge on why whales strand.
Disentanglement training. Whales are increasingly found entangled in marine debris, fishing and aquaculture equipment. Best practice training for government staff involved in disentanglement operations is conducted annually around the country.
Much of the growth in Australian whale watching is land-based. Humpbacks and southern right whales are the most popular species to watch as they migrate relatively close to the Australian coastline.
In 2005, the Australian National Guidelines for Cetacean Whale and Dolphin Watching 2005 were reviewed in order to establish a national framework for the regulation of interactions between people and whales, dolphins and porpoises. These guidelines apply equally to commercial and recreational whale watching and have the dual aims of:
minimizing harmful impacts on whales, dolphins and porpoises
ensuring people have the best opportunity to enjoy and learn about the whales, dolphins and porpoises found in Australian waters
Whale Research Projects
The Australian Government is funding a range of projects aimed at determining the population numbers and trend, migratory pathways and important habitat areas (calving, resting and feeding) for a number of whale species. A number of other organizations throughout Australia are also conducting and funding cetacean research.
State and Territory Government Responsibilities
State and territory governments are responsible for conservation and protection of whales in coastal waters (out to the 3 nautical mile limit). This includes responding to stranded and entangled whales. State and territory governments also manage most of the human/whale interactions, and whale watching.
International Affiliations and Cooperation
The Australian Government is party to a number of multi-lateral agreements related to whales. These include:
International Whaling Commission (IWC), which was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, to which Australia was one of the first signatories in 1948. The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review the measures which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international Convention agreed to regulate international trade from threatening species with extinction. Australia is one of more than 150 countries that are a party to CITES
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), which is an international treaty aimed to conserve terrestrial, marine and migratory species and their habitats on a global scale. Australia is working with South Pacific countries to develop a Memorandum of Understanding on marine mammal conservation in the South Pacific under the auspices of the CMS. Twenty two whale or dolphin species that occur in Australian waters are also listed under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, and are therefore classed as migratory species under the Act. These are:
- Antarctic minke whale
- Blue whale
- bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus)
- bottlenose dolphin (T. truncatus)
- Bryde’s whale
- Common dolphin
- Dusky dolphin
- Fraser’s dolphin
- Humpback whale
- Irrawaddy dolphin
- Killer whale
- Long-finned pilot whale
- Pan-tropical spotted dolphin
- Pygmy right whale
- Risso’s dolphin
- Sei whale
- Southern right whale
- Spectacled porpoise
- Sperm whale
- Spinner dolphin
- Striped dolphin