Whale and Dolphin Viewing Guidelines

Guidelines for dolphin and whale watching are in place for Tasmanian waters to ensure human safety and to protect the welfare of the animals.  The guidelines apply to both commercial operators (e.g. tour operators) as well as individuals lucky enough to chance upon dolphins or whales during recreational activities.  The guidelines provide a framework that allows people to observe and interact with whales and dolphins in a way that does not cause harm to the animals.

Inappropriate interaction can be dangerous for people, and can cause distress and physical injury to the whale or dolphin, as well as disturbing their breeding and migration.

Key principles

The key principles for appropriate viewing of whales and dolphins are observing the recommended approach distances, and not touching or feeding the animals.  The animal should be allowed to choose the nature and extent of any contact with people.  If vessels are operated appropriately, the impacts of whale and dolphin watching can be minimised and you will have a more enjoyable experience.  Remember, it is OK if whales or dolphins deliberately approach your vessel closer than the approach distances outlined below (e.g. dolphins riding a vessel's bow-wave), however this must be entirely determined by the animal.

The guidelines for Tasmanian waters closely follow the Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching 2017.

Approach distances for vessels

  • In a vessel, approach no closer than 100m to a whale or 50m to a dolphin;

  • If your vessel is under steam you should approach no closer than 300m for whales or 150m for dolphins - no more than three vessels within the caution zone (see diagram);

  • Withdraw immediately, at a slow and steady pace, if the animals show any kind of disturbance;

  • Adopt a slow speed (no wake) while in the area;

  • Avoid approaching from the no-approach zones in front or behind the animal (see diagram);

  • Personal motorised watercraft (including jet skis and remotely operated craft) should not approach whales or dolphins any closer than 300m.  If whales or dolphins move within this distance, the vessel should slow down and move away from the animal(s) at no-wake speed to at least 300m away.
Please remember - keep a safe distance, remain quiet, and do not try to touch or feed.

Approach distances for aircraft


Aircraft may disturb whales and dolphins due to their speed, noise, shadow, or downdraft in the case of helicopters.  The following should be followed to minimise disturbance:

  • Helicopters should not fly lower than 500m, within a 500m radius around a whale or dolphin (see diagram);

  • Other aircraft should not fly lower than 300m, within a 300m radius around a whale or dolphin (see diagram).