Be Whale Wise Guidelines

There is a strong concern that the explosion of interest in whale watching since the mid-1980s has had negative effects on cetaceans.

While commercial whale-watching vessel operators are necessarily aware of whale watching guidelines and, generally follow them, many private recreational vessel operators are not familiar with the guidelines and frequently interrupt the activities of marine mammals. Although one boat is not likely to cause significant disturbance just by watching whales, repeated violations of the whale watching guidelines are likely to lead to significant disturbance of cetaceans. The impacts of whale watching are due both to the presence of the vessels (turning the whales’ attention away from activities like foraging, feeding, socializing and breeding) and to the noise the vessels produce (reducing the ability of whales to detect their prey, communicate, and navigate).

The impacts of whale watching are occurring in conjunction with other threats; whale watchers are focusing on species that are at risk of extinction due to a variety of factors such as high levels of toxins in their blubber and limited availability of prey, and many of these populations are still small due to whaling or capture for aquaria in the past.

For more information on the effects of boats on whales see our threats section.

The Be Whale Wise Marine Wildlife Guidelines for Boaters, Paddlers and Viewers (Revised 2006) are endorsed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and BC Parks in Canada, and by NOAA Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the US.

By following the Be Whale Wise Guidelines you are helping to reduce the impact of your vessel on marine mammals.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Power Boaters:
Observe the Be Whale Wise Guidelines.
If you’re boating in an area known for whale activity, reduce your speed, keep a watch for signs of cetaceans.
If you see whale watching boats, reduce your speed, watch for signs of cetaceans and give the area a wide berth.

Sport Fishing:
Observe the Be Whale Wise Guidelines.
If you’re fishing in an area known for whale activity, keep a watch for signs of cetaceans. While fishing, if you see killer whales approach, consider removing your fishing gear – killer whales in BC are learning to take fish from lines. This is the best way to ensure this behaviour stops. See our Depredation section for more information.

Sailors:
Observe the Be Whale Wise Guidelines.
Although sailboats are very quiet, whales and other cetaceans may not be alerted to your presence as easily as they are to power boats. Research has shown that the presence of vessels, including sailboats, may cause cetaceans to change their behaviour, including cessation of feeding. Provide all cetaceans a wide berth.

Kayakers:
Observe the Be Whale Wise Guidelines.
Although kayaks are very quiet, whales and other cetaceans may not be alerted to your presence as easily as they are to power boats. Research has shown that the presence of vessels, including kayaks, may cause cetaceans to change their behaviour, including cessation of feeding. Provide all cetaceans a wide berth.

Report violations of the Be Whale Wise Guidelines.
In Canada to Fisheries and Oceans Canada
1-800-465-4336
In the U.S. to NOAA Fisheries, Office of Law Enforcement
1-800-853-1964

Good whale watching
Doug Sandilands
Good whale watching
Bad whale watching
Doug Sandilands
Bad whale watching
Bad whale watching
Doug Sandilands
Bad whale watching

Be Whale Wise Marine Wildlife Guidelines for Boaters, Paddlers and Viewers (Revised 2006):

1. BE CAUTIOUS and COURTEOUS: approach areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity with extreme caution. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure.

2. SLOW DOWN: reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 metres/yards of the nearest whale. Avoid abrupt course changes.

3. KEEP CLEAR of the whales’ path. If whales are approaching you, cautiously move out of the way.

4. DO NOT APPROACH whales from the front or from behind. Always approach and depart whales from the side, moving in a direction parallel to the direction of the whales.

5. DO NOT APPROACH or position your vessel closer than 100 metres/yards to any whale.

6. If your vessel is not in compliance with the 100 metres/yards approach guideline (#5), place engine in neutral and allow whales to pass.

7. STAY on the OFFSHORE side of the whales when they are traveling close to shore.

8. LIMIT your viewing time to a recommended maximum of 30 minutes. This will minimize the cumulative impact of many vessels and give consideration to other viewers.

9. DO NOT swim with, touch or feed marine wildlife.

Bow and stern-riding porpoises and dolphins:

1. DO NOT drive through groups of porpoises or dolphins to encourage bow or stern-riding.

2. Should dolphins or porpoises choose to ride the bow wave of your vessel, avoid sudden course changes. Hold course and speed or reduce speed gradually.

Seals, sea lions and birds on land:

1. BE CAUTIOUS AND QUIET when around haul-outs and bird colonies, especially during breeding, nesting and pupping seasons (generally May to September).

2. REDUCE SPEED, minimize wake, wash and noise, and then slowly pass without stopping.

3. AVOID approaching closer than 100metres/yards to any marine mammals or birds.

4. PAY ATTENTION and move away, slowly and cautiously, at the first sign of disturbance or agitation.

5. DO NOT disturb, move, feed or touch any marine wildlife, including seal pups. If you are concerned about a potentially sick or stranded animal, contact your local stranding network where available.
In B.C., call the DFO hotline at 1-800-465-4336.