Be a Wise Whale and Wildlife Watcher

Exploring the Whale Museum in Telegraph Cove (Photo by R. Spencer)

A couple weeks ago, I went up island with my family to do some whale and wildlife watching. Not only did we see belted kingfishers and a pair of sea lions and bald eagles, but we were lucky enough to glimpse a pod of northern resident killer whales and two humpback whales passing through Johnston Strait!  It was a thrilling experience for us, but I couldn’t help but notice some of the visitors and commercial operators were not following all the guidelines of our Wise Whale and Wildlife Watcher Pledge. If you’re planning an end of the summer camping or wildlife watching trip, it might be handy to review these guidelines, or Take the Pledge yourself!

As a recreational or commercial boater travelling in sensitive waters (like the Georgia Strait) it is very important to:

Be cautious and courteous. Marine mammals can be very cryptic creatures, and it is your responsibility as a boat operator to use caution while travelling through their habitat.

Slow down. Reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 metres/yards to the nearest marine mammal, avoiding abrupt course changes.

*On our whale watching trip, the skipper was in constant communication with killer whale researchers positioned up the adjacent hillside. They would update him on their position, and make appropriate recommendations on how fast and what direction our boat should go (pretty neat!).
Avoid approaching closer than 100 metres/yards to any marine mammals or birds.
Limit your viewing time to a recommended maximum of 30 minutes to minimize the cumulative impact of many vessels and give consideration to other viewers.
Large male killer whale in Johnston Strait (Photo by R. Spencer)

*On our whale watching trip, the skipper was very attentive to our proximity to the whales, and the duration of our time in the strait. When it was safe, he manoeuvred our boat away from the whales, making sure to not approach them from behind, driving parallel to them, and allowing other boats to take our place.

Following these guidelines is an excellent start to your whale or wildlife watching experience. However, if you decide to book a tour with a commercial operation, I would recommend still doing some background research! For instance, TripAdvisor reviews of BC whale watching tours provides a useful starting point.
Interested in learning a bit more about killer whales, and what you can do to help protect them? Check out these useful links:
1) Read our Killer Whale Species At Risk Profile to learn more about resident, transient and offshore populations.
2) Be ToxicSmart! Reduce the use of toxic chemicals in your home. Make your home ToxicSmart and your garden pesticide free to help reduce toxins in the marine food chain.
Enjoy your last bit of summer sunshine! 

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