Port Phillip ‘dolphin hoons’ face hefty fines

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BEACH-GOERS who harass dolphins or seals in Port Phillip Bay face hefty fines this summer.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment has vowed to prosecute people caught intimidating wildlife during its seasonal patrols.

Plain-clothes and uniform officers have been dispatched to crack down on jet-ski riders, boat users and swimmers caught breaking the law, with serious offences carrying fines of up to $105,000.

Jeff Weir, director of not-for-profit conservation organisation the Dolphin Research Institute, said the recent hot weather posed a threat to the dolphins.

“In these extreme weather conditions, when everyone goes out onto the bay, its hell for the dolphins,” he said.

Under marine laws, boaters must not come within 100 metres of dolphins and 200 metres of whales, while jet-skiers are required to keep a distance of at least 300 metres. Swimmers and surfers must keep 50 metres away from whales and 30 metres away from dolphins.

But Port Phillip Bay dolphin tour operator Torie Mackinnon said she regularly saw recreational boaters and jet-skiers approaching dolphins within the caution zones.

“They do it out of interest and I don’t think they’re aware of the restrictions,” Ms Mackinnon said.

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