Whale researchers and conservationists are asking Vancouver-area boaters to exercise extreme care to prevent further harm to an injured humpback whale, last spotted swimming near Point Grey.
The whale has been observed with a deep cut on its tailstock, believed to be a strike wound from a vessel. If spotted, boaters are reminded that they are required by law to slow down to below 7 knots when within 1,000 metres and give the whale a minimum of 100 metres space.
The humpback population has made an impressive comeback in the past 50 years; however, humpbacks are still impacted by human activity and are listed as a species of Special Concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
“This is a very upsetting situation because it is all too common,” said Jessica Scott, Applied Research Biologist at Ocean Wise and manager of the Ocean Wise-administered BC Cetacean Sightings Network, a citizen science program that focuses on boater education and ship strike prevention. “It is precisely for this reason that Ocean Wise created the citizen science-driven WhaleReport Alert System.”
The whale had been observed swimming in the Point Grey area since early April. But on April 11, crew aboard a Prince of Whales Whale Watching Vessel photographed the whale with a deep laceration behind its dorsal fin.
Ongoing collaborative efforts by Ocean Wise, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Prince of Whales, Ocean Ecoventures and the Humpback Whales of the Salish Sea Project are in place to monitor the humpback.
“Humpback whales are especially prone to ship strikes because they exhibit random travel patterns, remaining submerged for over 15 minutes in some cases, and because of their tendency to feed at the surface” continued Jessica Scott. “They can surface suddenly and without warning. For both boater and whale safety, it is important to operate vessels carefully in areas of known whale density, and to keep an eye out for signs of whale presence, such as blows, splashes, or aggregations of birds. Boaters have been severely injured by collisions with humpback whales in British Columbia.”
Be Whale Wise
Boaters are encouraged to protect whales in the wild in the following ways.
See a blow, go slow. Boaters are reminded to follow the marine mammal regulations when out on the water – it’s the law. Keep a safe distance to minimize stress to the whale (at least 100 m for humpbacks, 200 m if they are resting or with a calf). And reduce speed to under 7 knots when within 1,000 m. Unless specifically authorized, vessels must stay at least 400 m away from all killer whales in southern BC coastal waters. A full list of Marine Mammal Regulations can be viewed at bewhalewise.org
Download the Ocean Wise WhaleReport App. You can help prevent ship strikes and disturbance to whales by reporting your sightings using the Ocean Wise WhaleReport website or App! Your real time sightings are transmitted to large commercial vessels (e.g. BC Ferries) enabling them to take avoidance measures to keep whales safe. Go to ocean.org/whales for more information.
Immediately report injured or distressed marine mammals to Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Marine Mammal Incident Reporting Hotline at 1-800-465-4336. It is the law to report collisions and entanglements!
Also check out these resources:
· See a Blow, Go Slow – Marine Education and Resource Society
· Ocean.org/whales – Ocean Wise (BC Cetacean Sightings Network)
· BeWhaleWise.org – Partnership of governmental agencies, non-profits and stakeholders in BC and WA
Photo credit for all images: Vanessa Prigollini