THE warm weather has returned and with it are the visitors who love the Mornington Peninsula’s beaches as much as its dolphins do.
With only weeks to go until the influx of summer crowds, watercraft users and swimmers are being reminded that “dolphin distancing” is important to protect the marine mammals and allow everyone to enjoy the beach safely.
Boats and paddle craft must stay at least 100 metres away from dolphins, jet skis must be at least 300 metres away, and swimmers and surfers must keep a distance of at least 30 metres.
The Conservation Regulator, a state government authority, also advises that if dolphins approach water users they should slow down and not interact with them.
In 2011, the death of a two-month-old dolphin calf at London Bridge, Portsea prompted a community outcry, with tour operators saying they had seen jet-ski riders chasing the mammals.
The two-month-old female dolphin had a broken skull and jaw, which the former DSE, now the Department of Environment, Education, and Climate Action, said was probably caused by a boat or a jet-ski.
Jet skis are believed to have a bigger impact on dolphins if they do hit them, due to their wave jumping capability and maneuverability.
A DEECA spokesman at the time said swift action would be taken if the dolphin was found to have been hit deliberately.
He said a court could impose fines up to $100,000 and DEECA would seize the craft involved.
Breaches can be reported to Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.
The Dolphin Research Institute runs the Dolphin Distancing program, an awareness and education program that water users and dolphin advocates can join to learn more and be part of dolphin protection.
To join go to dolphinresearch.org.au/commit-to-dolphin-distancing