Tour operators told to leave dolphins alone
By BREE PRICE and JOSIE SARGENT
NORTHERN Rivers ocean tour operators say they are prepared to dob in anyone they see chasing dolphins, under new rules being planned by the state government.
Tour operators yesterday welcomed the proposed legislation, with most saying they had seen other operators and private boats chase dolphins and would help the National Parks and Wildlife Service enforce the new law.
That law, if implemented, threatens fines of up to $110,000
for any boat or swimmer that goes within 30 metres of dolphins, porpoises or dugongs.
Baysail skipper Ian McCabe said he had seen professional and amateur operators pursuing dolphins off the Far North Coast.
He wouldn't hesitate to alert NPWS authorities if the regulations were approved.
Byron Bay Dive Centre operator Rob Dalton said he would report boaties if dolphins were in danger.
That willingness would be pivotal to the success of the law, with National Parks and Wildlife saying it would rely almost entirely on the public to report any incidents.
NPWS environment protection officer John Dengate said his organisation could not constantly monitor the coastline.
"We can't have inspectors behind every tree, but there are concerned citizens behind every tree," he said. "There will be some patrols, but they will not be a major feature of enforcement."
Australian Seabird Rescue president, Lance Ferris, said dolphins being chased was 'a major problem'.
"We get boats zooming around the dolphins. If people see them they need to cut the motor or slow down," Mr Ferris said.
"There's the risk of separating a mother and calf, or wounding dorsal fins with propellers."
Mr Dengate said NPWS had received alarming numbers of reports about people pursuing marine mammals.
However, he stressed vessels approached by dolphins were not at risk of being fined.
"If dolphins come to you, that's not a problem. If a boat is motoring along and dolphins ride the bow wave, that's fine." he said.
The proposed regulations are open for public comment until the middle of February.