Now that it’s August, summer is in full throttle, and is the ideal season for boaters and paddlers to enjoy Canada’s rivers, lakes and oceans. If you’re a resident of, or visitor to British Columbia, you may even be fortunate enough to spot whales, dolphins, and porpoises (collectively referred to as cetaceans) while cruising the coastlines.
With extra eyes and ears out on the water, the Vancouver Aquarium’s B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network could certainly use your help in gathering important information from cetacean sightings, which is provided to scientists across the province. Scientists use the information to monitor the species’ movements and activities along B.C.’s expansive coastline to better understand their behaviours and help inform important research, conservation and recovery actions.
You can help by reporting your cetacean sightings. It’s easy to do – just call 1-866-I-SAW-ONE, email firstname.lastname@example.org or report online by creating an account online. We can even send you a log book that you can leave in your boat.
In the excitement of spotting a wild dolphin or whale, it is easy to forget that the presence of humans and their vessels can impact these animals. When we get too close, approach too quickly, or make too much noise, we may disrupt the whales and interfere with foraging, resting and socializing. Boats can also directly injure cetaceans through collisions, and the animals that survive these strikes show the telltale scars inflicted by propellers.
So this summer as you’re out on your boats, help keep wild cetaceans safe by being Whale Wise and following a few guidelines:
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 seven 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. Place engine in neutral and allow whales to pass if your vessel is not in compliance with the 100 metres/yards approach guideline (#5).
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 will give consideration to other viewers.
9. Do not swim with, touch or feed marine wildlife.
Some of the curious and playful dolphin and porpoise species along the ocean’s coasts can present a tricky situation with the guidelines, as they may approach vessels to bow-ride. In the case of bow and stern-riding porpoises or dolphins:
- Do not drive through groups of porpoises or dolphins to encourage bow or stern-riding.
- 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.
Wildlife watching on the water can be a special experience, but remember your actions can help keep whales, dolphins and porpoise safe and greatly reduce human impacts on these species. And if you are fortunate enough to sight a whale, dolphin or porpoise out in the wild, don’t forget to report your sightings to contribute to important research taking place.