Skip to content

After a three year-trial of swim-with humpback whales, the activity commenced in Hervey Bay in 2014. Strong rules of engagement were implemented and a self-regulated Code of Ethics was adopted by the whale watching industry. In Australia, it is illegal to conduct swim-with activities when there is a calf in the whale pod.

It’s a niche market with a small percentage of revenue compared to vessel-based whale watching. Due to factors including strong tides and poor visibility, weather conditions, and presence of mother-calf, swim-with hasn’t been a viable option for tour operators.

The Pacific Whale Foundation has conducted a ‘swim-with’ research programme to examine short-term behavioural responses in whales compared to whale watch tours. Results of the study have now been published (, and show that the behaviour of humpback whales was altered in response to swim-with whale tourism.

To enable a balanced discussion on the issue of the future of swim-with activities, Dr Kathy Townsend of USC undertook a Special Research Project to review recent literature on this subject and to report on incidences of injury from swim-with activities in western Australia and other areas of the world.

Photo: Fraser Coast Tourism & Events