NSW Police have urged whale watchers and skippers to be aware of their surroundings during this season’s whale migration, after an incident on Sunday saw a breaching whale land on top of a boat off the coast of Narooma.
An 18-year-old man was taken to Moruya Hospital before being airlifted to Canberra, where he is in a critical but stable condition after he sustained head injuries in the incident.
The 39-year-old skipper was treated at Moruya Hospital for concussion and facial lacerations.
Maritime NSW has launched an investigation into the incident.
“While inquiries are in their infancy, the incident demonstrates the dangers these mammals can pose to those on the water,” said marine area commander Superintendent Joe McNulty.
“In recent days, the number of whales migrating north has dramatically increased, and maritime authorities have received reports they’re travelling closer to the coast than in previous years.”
He said while the whales’ proximity to the shoreline means greater potential for “spectacular whale watching”, he encouraged people to maintain a safe distance from the animals.
“You must not approach a whale any closer than 100m on a vessel, including boats, surf skis and kayaks, or 300m on a ‘prohibited vessel’, which includes jet skis.
“Swimmers and divers must not enter the water within 100m of a whale and then make sure they maintain a distance of at least 30m in any direction.”
Drones must remain at least 100m away, while aircraft like helicopters must maintain a distance of at least 500m.
Authorities believe the whale may have sustained injuries during Sunday’s incident in Narooma as well, with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to work alongside the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) to monitor and provide assistance to the animal if required.
Anyone who sees a stranded, entangled, or distressed whale should contact the NPWS on 1300 0 PARKS.