Aug 4, 2020

OrcaPhoto credit: Photo by Georgia Strait Alliance

During these difficult COVID-19 times, it isn’t just humans who need to practice physical distancing; Southern Resident killer whales need space too. Everyone boating on B.C.’s coastal waters has an important role to play to keep these endangered mammals safe.  Here are six easy things you can do to help protect them, and yourself while boating:
 
• Stay 400 metres – about two average container ships – away from killer whales in all southern B.C. coastal waters between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet. Outside of this area, Marine Mammal Regulations require a 200m approach distance from all killer whales. Some whale watching and ecotourism companies will be allowed to be closer to non-Southern Resident killer whales, up to 200 metres. These boats fly a purple flag with the letters AV, to indicate that they are allowed to be closer. Do not follow them. You can be fined for getting too close to the whales.

• Stay out of sanctuary zones: From June 1 to November 30, 2020, there are Interim Sanctuary Zones where Southern Resident killer whales are known to feed around Swiftsure Bank, the east coast of Saturna Island, and south-west of North Pender Island. Vessels are not allowed to enter these areas with some exceptions. These areas are monitored, and warning letters or fines may be sent to boaters who enter these zones.  

• No Fishing: There are area-based fishery closures in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the southern Gulf Islands for recreational and commercial salmon fishing through the summer and fall. Fish harvesters are also encouraged to stop fishing within 1000 metres of killer whales.
 
• Do not disturb: Within 1000 metres of killer whales, you should slow down to less than 7 knots. If killer whales are within 400 metres of you, you should turn your engine to neutral and let the whales pass. If safe to do so, turn off your echo sounders and fish finders. This helps the whales communicate without interference from other loud sounds. 

• Report injured whales and reckless boater behaviour: If you see boats behaving recklessly or endangering whales, or if you see an injured whale, please contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada by phone (1-800-465-4336) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  
 
• Maintain physical distancing measures on the dock, at the marina, on your boat and with fellow boaters. Avoid floating boat parties and tight groupings while anchored.
 
The above updated measures were announced by the Government of Canada in May 2020 as part of the Oceans Protection Plan and the Whales Initiative to protect and support the recovery of the Southern Resident killer whale population, which is listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act.

Here are some helpful PDF’s:

http://boatingindustry.ca/images/PDFs/21-AE-04_WHALES_POSTCARD_5x7_EN.pdf

http://boatingindustry.ca/images/PDFs/2020-2021-MARINE-05_BROCHURE_EN.pdf

http://boatingindustry.ca/images/PDFs/2020-2021-MARINE-05_POSTER_EN.pdf

 
For more information, please visit: www.tc.gc.ca/en/campaigns/working-together/protecting-endangered-whales.html  and www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/whales-baleines/srkw-measures-mesures-ers-eng.html or contact Transport Canada at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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