DFO reminds B.C. boaters and drone operators to keep their distance from marine mammals

Photo courtesy of DFO Aquatic Biologist Christine Konrad
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Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is reminding boaters and drone operators to help protect marine mammals by giving them space.

The distance restrictions apply to all types of watercraft, including motorboats, kayaks and paddle boards. Special distance regulations prohibit the operation of drones and other un-piloted or robotic aircraft near marine animals, the DFO said in a media release.

The southern resident killer whale population is of particular concern because its small population of 75 (as of June), and low birth rate, means even small changes to a few individuals can have a big impact. The DFO said the mammals are already threatened by declining prey availability, physical and acoustic disturbances, environmental contaminants, incidental mortalities in fisheries, vessel strikes and entanglements.

In the presence of marine mammals in B.C., the following minimum approach distances must be respected by motorized and non-motorized vessels: 

– 400m away from killer whales in all southern B.C. coastal waters (between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet) effective until May 31, 2022;

– 200m away from all Killer Whales in Canadian Pacific waters (except when in southern B.C. coastal waters);      

– 200m away from all whales, dolphins and porpoises when in resting position or with a calf;

– 100m away from all other whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Certain whale watching and ecotourism companies have received authorization from the minister of transport to be able to view killer whales other than southern resident killer whales up to 200m, given their knowledge of different ecotypes and have agreed to avoid viewing southern resident killer whales during their tours. These vessels fly a purple “AV” flag, according to the DFO.

The DFO also asks boaters to stop fishing and reduce speed to under seven knots within 1,000m of killer whales. It also recommends turning off echo sounders when safe to do so and fish finders when not in use. If you find yourself breaking the distance restriction, the DFO said to place the engine in neutral idle and allow animals to pass.

Screen Shot 2021 07 23 at 12.14.12 PM
Overview of management measures to protect southern resident killer whales. || DFO image.
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