Whale Watching Guidelines for the British Columbia Coast
As dictated by the Fisheries Act, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is accountable for the protection and management of marine mammals. The Marine Mammal Regulations specifically prohibit the disruption of whales and other marine mammals.
The DFO has developed guiding principles for whale watching in Johnstone Strait, and the inside passage, where killer whales and other marine mammals are known to patronise during the summer months. It is strongly advised that vessel operators follow these guidelines for all mammalian species and other marine animals.
This section is not meant to replace the regulations of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, for more information please visit their website at www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
Diving or swimming with these creatures constitutes a manner of approach to all marine mammals and falls under these guidelines and regulations. It is illegal to hunt, pursue, scatter, drive or round up groups, pods or individuals of marine mammals.
Be conscious of the result of your actions on the whales and other marine mammals. Be familiar with the distances required and activities that will disturb and interfere with the animals. Viewing activities within the confines of the Robson Bight Michael Bigg Ecological Reserve is strictly forbidden.
Marine Mammal Viewing Guidelines
- Approach the animal only from the side, not from the front or the rear.
- Advance no closer than 200 metres and shift your motor into neutral or idle.
- Keep noise levels to a minimum – no horns, whistles or racing
- Start your motor only after the animals are more than 200 metres from your vessel.
- When leaving the area, do so slowly, accelerating little by little as you place distance between you and the animals.
- Advance and retreat at a snail’s pace, avoiding sudden changes in speed or direction.
- Prevent disturbing pods or families of resting whales.
Sustain low speeds and steady direction if travelling parallel to animals.
- When animals are travelling close to shore, do not crowd them near the shore or come between the animals and the shore.
- Limit the time spent with any group of animals to less than 30
minutes at a time when within 200 – 300 metres of the animals.
- If there is more than one vessel at the same observation site, be sure to avoid any boat position that would result in corralling the animals.
Limit time, as above and then move out to allow other vessels access to good viewing positions.
- Coordinate activities by maintaining radio contact with other vessels, and ensure that all operators are aware of the viewing guidelines.
Researchers wanting to study the whales must confirm with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to ensure their proposed study activity is permissible and to establish whether or not they will necessitate a scientific license.
The entry of Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve, without exception requires permission by B.C. Parks.
Summary convictions for contravention of the Fisheries Act or its regulations carry a fine of up to $100,000 a prison term up to one year, or both. Indictable convictions carry a fine of up to $500,000, prison terms of up to two years, or both. (Fisheries Act s.78)