Eased restrictions throw whale watching fleet a lifeline

THE first humpbacks of the year were spotted making their way into Hervey Bay as the Premier made an announcement that could save the region's whale watching season.

As of noon today, Queenslanders will be able to travel throughout the state, including allowing overnight stays, in a major easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

However it will not change the need for social distancing measures.

Bobbie Hayter from Spirit of Hervey Bay said it was great news for the industry.

"We're starting to get inquiries," she said.

Bobbie Hayter - mgr. Spirit of Hervey Bay.
Bobbie Hayter - mgr. Spirit of Hervey Bay. Alistair Brightman

"We're hoping Queenslanders will back us and we'll have a good season."

Ms Hayter said international visitors made up a big portion of their market.

Given Queensland's borders opening completely was a long way off, they were hoping people within the state would get behind the industry.

She said there was still a degree of concern within the industry.

"Our stretch into the world has been highly restricted, people are still doing it tough," she said.

"We're still cautious but we are getting a good bit of activity.

"The next bit of good news will be when they open the borders."

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Peter Lynch from Blue Dolphin Marine Tours said social distancing rules would still impact upon whale watching operators.

"It will be Queenslanders helping Queenslanders," he said.

Mr Lynch said he was hoping for a slight relaxation in social distancing, similar to what has been allowed in New South Wales.

He said currently most vessels would have to operate at 30 to 40 per cent capacity to comply.

Peter Lynch owner Blue Dolphin Marine Tours at Urangan marina.Photo: Alistair Brightman
Peter Lynch owner Blue Dolphin Marine Tours at Urangan marina.Photo: Alistair Brightman Alistair Brightman

He said even with limited guests, it was important not to devalue the product by offering big discounts.

On the weekend, Mr Lynch saw some of the first whales of the season travel through the waters off Hervey Bay.

He hopes it's a sign that there will be strong whale numbers this year.

Mr Lynch said his business was taking bookings and offering a 100 per cent refund guarantee if people were unable to make it because of travel or coronavirus restrictions.