Whales and dolphins

If you encounter whales or dolphins when on the water it can be tempting to go up close for a look. Approaching too close to whales and dolphins is illegal due to safety concerns for the animals. It can also be dangerous as a whale, particularly a female with a young calf, can feel threatened and react unexpectedly.

Keep well clear during mating time, generally during the winter months, as whales get quite boisterous.

Keep your boat well away from any whales and avoid:

  • travelling on a collision course, especially head-on toward a whale or dolphin
  • sudden changes of speed or direction.

Specific rules apply to the operation of personal watercraft, such as jet skis and wave-runners near dolphins because their speed and manoeuvrability can pose greater risks to whales and dolphins.

Both state and federal laws protect whales and dolphins, including the distances that boats, swimmers and aircraft may approach. The relevant state legislation, administered by the Department of Environment and Water, is the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and the National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals - Marine Mammals) Regulation 2010.

Within the Encounter Bay Marine Park all vessels and persons must keep a distance of 300 meters from any marine mammal. Further information can be found at www.environment.sa.gov.au/marineparks/find-a-park/fleurieu-peninsula/encounter.

Speed limits are in place for parts of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary for the protection of all water users and marine life. Limits of four knots and seven knots are signed throughout the area.

Port River speed limit map

Related information

Other websites

SA Boating Safety Handbook - Department for Infrastructure and Transport

National Parks and Wildlife SA - Department for Environment and Heritage

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Page last updated 18 August 2020

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