Over the past three days, the BC Cetacean Sightings Network has received reports of a grey whale around Vancouver.  The sighting is reminiscent of the grey whale that visited False Creek and surrounding areas in early May.  See here for the full story from this spring.

While seeing a whale is an unexpected and exciting surprise around Vancouver, the BC Cetacean Sightings Network and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) are encouraging boaters and interested citizens to give the animal space.  Chances of vessel strike and disturbance causing stress are greatly increased when boats and people get too close cetaceans.  To learn how to best watch these animals safely while on the water, check out the Be Whale Wise guidelines here.   Watching from land is also a great way to reduce human impact!

Many observers reporting this whale have been concerned about the proximity of the whale to shore.  However, grey whales are regularly seen close to shore and in shallow water. Their position close to shore is due to the fact that grey whales often feed in the sandy, silty bottoms found close to the beach.  They actually filter this sediment, looking for small invertebrates like amphipods and crab larvae.  At this time of year, they are very focused on feeding as they eat very little during the winter months when grey whales migrate to Baja, Mexico.

When feeding, grey whales will roll onto their side to scoop up the sand.  While doing this, their pectoral fin(s) and tail are often visible;  in shallow water this can sometimes be mistaken for floundering, but is actually normal grey whale behavior.  Feeding grey whales should be given an extra wide berth, to make sure they have the room and ability to feed without being disturbed.   If you are concerned about the behavior of ANY cetacean, call the Marine Mammal Incident Reporting Line at 1 800 465 4336 immediately, but do not undertake any action on your own.  While well-intentioned, it may be dangerous for both the animal and humans involved.

Want to become a citizen scientist?  Report what you see!  If you’ve seen this whale (or any others) recently, file a report here or by calling 1 866 I SAW ONE (1 866 472 9663)!

Doug Sandilands

A grey whale spotted off the west coast in 2008 with scars from a boat propeller reminds us that it is important to give these animals ample space while they visitor our shores.

Jenn Hoffman

This image captured by a BCCSN observer last year illustrates the feeding technique of grey whales, who often roll onto their sides to scoops up sediment from the shallow bottom.

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