Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Operation to protect migrating whales

Media release
26 May 2012

The Gillard Government, in partnership with state agencies and the New Zealand Government, has activated an operation to protect whales as they migrate across our coast.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said teams of conservation and environment officers from Australian federal and state agencies will monitor and enforce approach limits for boats and ships, low flying aircraft and people in the water interacting with whales.

Mr Burke said the Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators neTwork’s (AELERT) Operation CETUS, now in its second year aims to ensure whales are better protected during their migration.

“Whale migration provides us with a unique opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat,’’ he said.

“But we must recognise that there is a balance between watching the whales and getting in their way.

“Whales have already been spotted on the move in many coastal areas and now is an opportune time to remind everyone that whale approach guidelines exist and are enforceable in both State and Commonwealth waters.

"It is vital that whales are able to migrate, whether over great distances or in localised areas and people must observe the whale watching limits.

“Any vessel on the water or low flying aircraft must be on the lookout for whales – it doesn’t matter if you operate a tourist boat, surf boat, transport ship or pilot a charter flight these guidelines apply to everyone.

“Operation CETUS is another demonstration of our commitment to marine conservation and just one initiative the Gillard Government is committed to ahead of the 64th annual International Whaling Commission meeting later this month.

“Whale approach guidelines exist for the safely of the animals, the public and to minimise the impacts of human and shipping interactions on individual and larger populations of whales and dolphins.”

For more information visit

If you see a suspected breach of the guidelines or to report an incident involving a whale contact 1800 110 395 or email

Whale approach guidelines vary between coastal areas so contact your local state conservation and environment department for more information.