Warning over dangerous whale Tiktoks in Australia: 'Unacceptable'

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

Growing reports of videos showing boats hooning dangerously close to whales will result in Victorian authorities increasing ocean patrols.

The state’s Conservation Regulator issued a warning after viewing multiple videos in which TikTok and Instagram users were seen to be “encouraging behaviour which threatens the animal’s health and welfare”.

Along with catching “wrongdoers”, Operation Calyx will focus on intelligence gathering and educating the public around “hotspot areas” between Phillip Island in the state's south and Portland in the far west.

Stills from an Instagram video in which a boat came close to hitting a whale. Source: Instagram
Stills from an Instagram video in which a boat came close to hitting a whale. Source: Instagram

In Victoria swimmers and surfers are required to keep at least 50 metres between them and whales, while boats must ensure they are 200 metres away, and jet skis 300 metres.

Videos show boats almost hitting whales

Yahoo News Australia has become aware of two videos uploaded to social media by local fishing-focused accounts. It remains unclear where they were filmed, although both account holders have resided in Victoria.

A TikTok account owned by a woman claiming to be a “passionate hunter and angler” posted footage on July 25 showing a speed boat hurtling towards a whale.

A woman laughs in the background, names the man behind the wheel, then jokes the boat is going to be “tipped over by a whale”.

The animal’s tail dips under the water as the boat hurtles dangerously close to it, but it is unclear whether contact was made.

“It’s under your boat,” the woman says, before excitedly confirming she’d captured the interaction on video.

In a separate video uploaded to Instagram two weeks ago, a person films from the bow of a fast-moving boat.

Two whales can be seen breaching just metres away as the watercraft continues towards them, almost crashing into one of the creatures. A man then swears and yells: “Oh my god”.

A TikTok video shows a boat moving at speed towards a whale. Source: TikTok
A TikTok video shows a boat moving at speed towards a whale. Source: TikTok

Comments accompanying the video appear to encourage the behaviour, with one person calling the incident “magic”.

“Don’t think you can get any closer,” another person wrote.

“Wow. Amazing,” someone else added.

Conservation Regulator’s warning to social media rule breakers

The Conservation Regulator is now investigating nine reports of boats moving too close to whales along with individuals who have posted several online.

Its chief, Kate Gavens, said crimes against whales are taken “very seriously”, adding the authority’s extra patrols send a message to social media users ignoring regulations is “completely unacceptable”.

“We’re lucky in Victoria to have whales so close to shore this time of year, but we need to ensure all sightings are from the minimum distance away to protect the health of our whales and community safety,” she said.

“We want to thank the community who have already flagged social media videos with us and reported people getting too close to marine mammals.”

In Victoria, whales are protected under the state’s wildlife act and people who ignore regulations face penalties up to $3698.

People who witness or suspect wildlife crime can report it to Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.

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