While the Table Bay area in Cape Town is experiencing an influx of southern right whales, residents are urged to respect the space of these majestic creatures. A number of accidents can occur when interested onlookers take to the sea to get a closer look.

“Whale muggings”, a phrase coined by the Seafari App on Facebook, is becoming an increasing concern in Cape Town. Essentially interested onlookers see whales out in the ocean and decide to paddle out to get a closer look, they lose sight of the whale and before they know it, the whale breaches below them and their boat is overturned.

According to Seafari App, a number of people over the past two weeks have been actively entering the water to get a better look at visiting whales. Some have been thrown from the boats as a result. Other incidents include boats hitting the whales while in search of them. In both cases, the whale can be seriously injured while the repercussions are far less serious for humans.

People out on their boat to get a closer look at a whale.

“Approaching within 300m of a whale is not allowed under South African law yet a significant number of recreational craft openly flouted these regulations. Admittedly, these whales have a nasty habit of just “popping up” and it can happen that, while minding your own business, a whale suddenly appears next to you (less than 300m away) and you suddenly become a “baddy”! Kayakers are especially prone to being mugged by these whales,” said the Seafari App on their Facebook page.

While a lot of incidents occur accidentally, a large number are the result of decisions made by those wishing to get a closer look.

A whale allegedly killed by a passing boat in Table Bay.

Sea Point has become especially notorious for such incidents with locals and tourists wanting to see whales on a daily basis.

“However, what I saw off Sea Point yesterday was not a case of “accidental whale mugging”. Various recreational craft were actively approaching the whales closer than 300m, some even as close as 20m. You might get some personal gratification from this but there is a serious risk of harm for both the boat users and, of course, the animal. Unfortunately, the boats did not always travel towards the whales at low speed, but rather sped towards the animal at high speed only to slow down about 50m from the animal,” added the Seafari App.

Kayakers out looking for whales.

Recreational activities and the lack of consideration are putting more whales in danger as people continue to put their momentary gratification above the wellbeing of marine life.

While we now have the pleasure of seeing these gentle giants from afar, they could not be there in future if our behaviours don’t change.

“Bottom line is: the law is there to protect BOTH whales and people! If we harass these animals continuously they will, at some point, stop coming so close to a city of 4.5 million people and after the phenomenal recovery of the whale populations in our area it would be so sad to see this annual spectacle, both the Humpback whale supergroups and these Southern right whale late summer feeding aggregations, disappearing beyond our horizon due to OUR behaviour,” says Seafari.

Pictures: Seafari App

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