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Marine Mammals and Recreational Fishing

Community Based Sustainable Fishing Education Project Information Sheet #3

FFC Fishing and Marine Mammals page

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BOFFFF - FAQ, References and additional resources

Further reading:

How marine mammals affect stocks
Marine mammals have long been blamed for reducing recreationally and commercially targeted species. However marine mammals do not only eat one species of fish, they actually eat a variety of fish, crustaceans, molluscs (including cephalopods) and some small mammals (Pauly et. al. 1998). It is quite feasible that marine mammals aid in stabilizing stocks by predating on other predator and competitive species. Since they’re opportunistic feeders it is possible they’re a natural handicap enforcer whereby they’ll target a species in greater numbers. This could actually aid in the recovery of some fish species by lowering the numbers of competitors and predators occupying the environment.

More information on the diets of various marine mammals click here

Boat handling around marine mammals
The Australian national guidelines for whale and dolphin watching 2005 states that inappropriately operated vessels can impact marine mammals by: disrupting important behaviours; displacement from important habitats; stress; injury; increased mortality and reduced breeding success. Therefore it is imperative that all possible care be taken when operating a watercraft around marine mammals. This could include: gently steering away from visible animals; slowly coming to a stop; not starting the motor in the presence of marine mammals and not changing direction or increasing speed whilst animals are bow riding (ANGWDW, 2005).
boats and marine mammals
Diagrammatical of acceptable boat positions in the presence of whales and dolphins sourced from ANGWDW (2005). Red represents the ‘no go zone’ and Yellow represents the caution one where boats must only travel at a no wake speed with a maximum of three boats present (ANGWDW, 2005). These rules do not apply if boat is stationary and dolphins choose to come to boat (ANGWDW, 2005). However it is illegal to purposely stop in front of a moving pod in order to get close to whales or dolphins (ANGWDW, 2005)


Pauly, D., Trites, A. W., Capuli, E., and Christensen, V. 1998. Diet composition and trophic levels of marine mammals. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 55: 467–481.

The Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching can be found at