It’s a story the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network team never gets tired of hearing: it’s a beautiful day, waters are calm, all is still against a serene marine backdrop when suddenly they appear. Whales! Dolphins! Porpoises! Quick, grab the binoculars and cameras! These moments are among the most exciting opportunities that arise from spending time on the water, but among the awesomeness of these events, we need to remember our actions can negatively impact the marine wildlife we are viewing. The good news is that it’s easy for each of us to do our part in protecting these animals by following a few simple guidelines.
Here are some of the guidelines to follow, find the full list here:
– Stay at least 100 metres away from any marine mammal.
– Don’t position your vessel in the path of oncoming marine mammals.
– Approach areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity with extreme caution. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure.
Catching a glimpse of marine wildlife is always exciting, whether you’ve seen them one or 1000 times. Tessa Danelesko, coordinator of the Sightings Network, recalls the first time she saw a whale in the ocean. “It was a humpback whale that out of nowhere rocketed out of the water in spectacular form. I immediately had a million happy emotions and thoughts running through my mind. It was such a cool event to witness and that memory serves as a good reminder that it’s easy to forget to be safe during these moments”.
There are many reasons why it’s so important to follow the Be Whale Wise guidelines. Vessels can distract whales from important activities such as feeding or socializing. Boat exhaust can also affect cetaceans. A 2011 study, by Cara Lachmuth and others, investigated vessel behaviour and emission levels in the presence of southern resident killer whales. It found that exhaust emissions have the potential to cause adverse health effects. Underwater noise can also have an effect by reducing the ability of whales to detect their prey, communicate and navigate. Lastly, the risk of collision increases anytime a vessel is in close proximity to a cetacean. Collisions can cause serious or fatal injuries to people and animals involved, so keeping a safe distance is always recommended.
With that said, we encourage everyone to get out on the water and have some fun! Keep your eyes out for cetaceans, and remember, when you get that thrilling feeling after spotting a cetacean, keep safety in mind and follow the Be Whale Wise Guidelines.