THE skipper of a Sunshine Coast whale watching cruise believes a yacht could have killed a newborn humpback whale calf today if he hadn't intervened.
Allan "Shorty" Short said he was at the helm of the Whale One catamaran about 10 nautical miles offshore of Mooloolaba late this morning as a whale and calf neared the boat, when he noticed a 40ft yacht under sail was headed straight for the calf.
He tried to reach the yacht by radio as they approached, but was finally forced to manoeuvrer between the calf and the yacht to cut it off.
"They weren't listening, but they abused me close up," he said.
"They didn't understand what I was trying to do.
"After they'd seen it, they realised but it was too late."
Mr Short said the encounter could have ended in disaster.
"The calf is only probably about three or four days old, so it's really young and if it cops a hit from a yacht that size it'll kill it," Mr Short said.
"Everyone on board (the Whale One) was so cranky, they could see it happening clearly.
"It was just very frustrating to see."
He said boats were posing an increasing danger to humpback whales as populations increase and move closer to shore, and the mild winter was bringing more boats out in search of whales.
"If you're in the ocean this time of year, you are likely going to come across a pod of whales," Mr Short said.
"This is when we get them coming in very close to shore.
"Now is the peak time, from now right through to October."
He said boaties needed to know the rules and regulations surrounding whales, but respecting the space of mothers with calves was especially important.
"What we have out at Mooloolaba, it's such a nursery grounds for these mums and calves," he said.
"If it's a calf, we always try to give them more than the 100m distance."
Boats must stop at least 100m away from a whale, while jet skis or the third boat to approach a whale must stop 300m away.
All vessels must stop 500m away from special interest whales like the famed white whale Migaloo, while aircraft including drones must halt their approach at 610m from the whale.
"We had three little boats come up while we were watching a big pod (today), so obviously they don't understand the rules and regulations, but they're there to protect the whales," Mr Short said.
"I've never been 10 miles (offshore) and had three other little boats come in to watch whales.
"Normally we're the only boat ever."
He urged boaties to be vigilant of whales even in shallow waters.
"You can even literally come out of the river mouth and run across a mum and calf, because they come in now," Mr Short said.