A Campbell River whale watching guide was fined $10,000 for knowingly approaching killer whales.
Nicklaus Templeman, the owner and operator of Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions, was found guilty of violations under both the Species At Risk and Federal Fisheries Acts, according to a release from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
The fine stems from an incident on May 27, 2019, when Templeman was observed by two other whale watching guides illegally approaching a killer whale within 35 m near Willow Point. Templeman acknowledged over the VHF radio that he was aware of the presence of the whale pod. However, he continued to travel in their direction and positioned his vessel in a way to ensure that the whales would have to pass him in close proximity, according to the DFO.
The illegal activity was reported to the DFO’s Observe, Record, Reporting line by the other whale watching guides and a fishery officer from the Campbell River detachment went to assess the situation.
There were six to seven commercial whale watching vessels in the area who provided witness statements, as did several of the tourists who were on board. The witnesses also provided significant amounts of photos and video statements, according to the release.
It is mandatory to respect the approach distances and other protective measures in place for marine mammals, the DFO said.
Section 7(2) of the Marine Mammal Regulations states that to disturb includes to approach the marine mammal to trap it or its group between a vessel and the shore or between a vessel and one or more other vessels.
Templeman broke this section of the Fisheries Act by approaching from behind within 35 m, encircling the whales and positioning his vessel near the shoreline, resulting in the two groups of orcas transiting between his vessel and the other whale watching vessels offshore.
The Species at Risk Act (SARA) is part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to protect threatened wildlife species and secure the necessary actions for their recovery. It provides for the legal protection of wildlife species and the conservation and preservation of their biological diversity.
Bigg’s killer whales are long-lived apex predators that are considered to be at risk due to small population size, very low reproductive rate (one calf approximately every five years) and high levels of chemical contaminants that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. Because they rely on stealth and passive listening to detect prey, Bigg’s killer whales are at risk of habitat degradation through acoustic disturbance from underwater noise.