Monday, August 1, 2011

Police drive over whales

Tuesday 02/July/2011, 3.00pm
Just spoke to DEC in the Broome Office to Ben who informed me that I should call their media liaison person because there was not enough evidence regarding the police driving over whales. However, DEC never tried to interview or contact any of the four eye witnesses nor did they contact me to see if I had any additional footage.

On the 31st of July 2011, from 11.20 AM, before the last shift of a community whale research, 4 volunteers witnessed the following incident involving two police boats between Quondong and James Price Point.

A large police boat was travelling south, coming across pods of humpback whales. They came very close to a pod, as demonstrated by a blowing whale just in front of the boat (Photo 1 ).

Rather than changing direction to move away from the whales, the police boat proceeded to travel over the top of the blowing whale. Immediately afterward, the whale breached directly behind the boat (Photo 2. 42 seconds later) Humpback whales are known to display this behavior, but not often and not that close as it is dangerous for them.

The police boat (was joined at this point by the smaller police boat) then turned around, facing north (Photo 3, which took 46 seconds) to follow this whale, which continued to blow (Photo 4 in between is 10 seconds Photo 5).

The police boats circled the pod of whales several more times before continuing to travel south. For the entire duration of this incident, the police boat did not maintain a safe distance from the whales (<100m).

Also, during this time, several surrounding pods of whales began exhibiting a frenzy of erratic behaviours (chin slapping, huge numbers of lobtailing), which continued for some time after the police boats had left.

A fourth dugong has been found dead in the last 3 months since May this year, washed up on a beach south of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. Environmental groups are warning of an ecological disaster in this part of Queensland. Friends of the Earth spokesman Drew Hutton said we are seeing destruction around Gladstone Harbour with the construction of the LNG plant there.

An LNG plant and port facilities are being built in this part of World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, which is a dugong sanctuary.

Mr Hutton asked, “How do you develop an environmental management plan that allows you to sensitively dredge your way through sea grass beds, removing 50 million cubic metres of spoil?”.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) reported that six dugongs have died since the start of 2011 in the Gladstone area. This compares to just two in 2010 and one in 2009.

There has also been an increase of sea turtle deaths in the area, from 26 last year to 48 for the same period this year.

While recent floods in Queensland may account for many of these marine animal deaths, the reduction of the natural habitat from dredging is “at least helping to create a situation where they are slowly being forced out of their traditional habitat to die of starvation”, said Mr Hutton.

Meanwhile the Australian Greens are calling on the Federal Government to investigate what impact the James Price Point LNG plant and port facilitie will have on the Kimberley marine environment.

Greens Spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert said, “According to the Government’s own reports, dredging and blasting of seabeds and reefs for the gas hub would lead to a 50km2 ‘marine deadzone’. This is a huge area to take out of an important international marine sanctuary”.

The Kimberley could be heading down the same path to a marine environment disaster and the WA Government must take the Queensland dugong deaths seriously.


  1. Hey guys think the large police vessel is The Delphinus keep up the good work Mina :-)

  2. Going by the pictures it doesn't look like the large police boat is moving as there is now wash, wake or water disruption. Are you sure they were'nt just sitting there watching the whales?

  3. looks like they were trying to go around the whales

  4. Even so, the distance is obviously too close and an overt display of ignorance from Police Authorities. Although it's a small slip up the result can be fatal. Police need educate themselves in the environment to which they work. The environment is fragile guys, that's why intelligent people are protesting it. Meatheads.

  5. If you feel they have breached the guidelines, report it to the Fisheries Dept. They can and will prosecute if guidelines have not been met. The police are not above the law as was recently seen down south when a policeman had his private car impounded after being clocked twice speeding in a police vehicle. Good luck