As Southern Right Whales return to local coastlines, an exclusion zone at Logans Beach near Warrnambool will come into force tomorrow (June 1) to protect these critically endangered mammals (Victorian Threatened Species Advisory List).

The Logans Beach Exclusion Zone will be in place until 31 October, preventing powered vessels from entering the area.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Senior Biodiversity Officer Mandy Watson said: “The purpose of the zone is to shelter the nursery area of the Southern Right Whale at Logans Beach, which is the only spot in South East Australia where females return annually to nurse their calves.”

"We know that whales react to the presence of boats, and mothers will position themselves between their calves and boats or move calves away from boats. As such, this zone creates protection for whales and boaters."

In all Victorian waters outside the exclusion zone, heavy penalties apply for ignoring minimum approach distances from whales under the Wildlife (Marine Mammal) Regulations 2009.

“These whales are vulnerable to disturbance and injury as they swim close to shore, spend a lot of time resting on the surface and can be hard to see due to their black coloured skin and lack of a dorsal fin,” Ms Watson said.

“We want to keep these whales safe from harm while they utilise our coastal waters over the winter months.”

“The good start to the Southern Right Whale season has continued in the past week, with confirmed sightings off Logans Beach, Port Campbell and Jan Juc.”

“We’ve had a daily sighting of an adult at Logans Beach which we believe is a regularly breeding female.”

“This is consistent with normal Southern Right Whale behaviour at the start of the season for females who are expected to calve.”

“It means we could very shortly see a calf at Logans Beach and this is always exciting for us as the Southern Right Whale population is so small and calves are so rare.”

Anyone who observes vessels within the Logans Beach Exclusion Zone or breaching minimum distance requirements outside the zone, is urged to note details and report the offence immediately to Barwon South West Wildlife Officers via the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.