A woman snorkeling at Ningaloo Reef on the northwest coast of Western Australia has become the third person to be injured by a humpback whale in less than a week.
The woman, Alicia Ramsay, 30, was rushed to Royal Hospital Perth with broken ribs on Thursday after being struck by the whale, which was swimming nearby with her calf.
Ramsay, who was snorkeling the reef, told Nine News Perth: “The calf decided to come see us and ended up being between us and the mother, so mum went into protective mode and tilted back.
“While doing this to get between us and the calf, its fin came out and grabbed me.
The incident, which was confirmed by Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, followed another incident five days earlier, also involving two whales.
On August 1, a woman was struck by the tail of a humpback whale while swimming with the giant mammals on a snorkeling excursion and suffered rib fractures and internal bleeding. Another swimmer in the group was less severely affected by one of the whales’ pectoral fins, which tore her hamstrings.
Humpback whale swimming encounters in Ningaloo Marine Park are expected to become a permanent licensed industry in 2021 at the end of a five-year trial that is monitored by the ministry.
A small group of tour operators have been licensed to offer the experience of swimming with humpback whales, which can reach 19m. Groups in the water are currently limited to nine at a time.
Regulations require swimmers to enter the water at least 75 meters from a whale.
“The DBCA continues to work with the industry and relevant licensed tour operators to investigate the two incidents,” the department said.