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An Australian woman was seriously injured Saturday while swimming with humpback whales at a tourist hotspot in Western Australia.
The 29-year-old woman suffered fractured ribs and internal bleeding when one of the giant mammals hit her with its tail during a tour at Ningaloo Reef, according to News.com.au. She reportedly was hospitalized in Perth and was in serious but stable condition Monday.
The tour operator told Nine News Perth that the whale swam directly at the group to place herself between them and her calf before engaging in defensive moves, like slapping her pectoral fins and tail down into the water.
Adult humpback whales can grow between 48 and 62.5 feet in length and weigh as much as 40 tons.
"Unfortunately, when she was doing that one of the swimmers was hit by her tail and another was hit by her pectoral fin less seriously," the operator said.
Swimming with humpback whales is set to become a permanent licensed industry in 2021, and is currently being monitored by Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, WA Today reported.
Humpback whale breaches water just yards away from fisherman’s boat
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The department released a safety report in January that said swimmers must keep 30 meters, or about 100 feet, away from the whales while in the water, according to the outlet.
The department acknowledged in a statement that “swimming with humpback whales involves some inherent risk” and said it was investigating the incident with cooperation from the industry and tour operator.
Adult humpback whales can measure from 48 to 62.5 feet, and weigh as much as 40 tons, according to National Geographic.
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Ningaloo Reef is known for its diverse marine life, the BBC reported, making it a popular snorkeling destination.
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