Thank you for your interest in how to be a responsible and safe vessel operator in the presence of marine wildlife.
If you have witnessed an incident of concern, please call the DFO Incident Reporting Line at 1-800-465-4336.
Marine Mammal Regulations in Canada
Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations were updated in July 2018. Click here for the full Regulations.
Minimum approach distances for vessels:
Mandatory reporting of any accidental contact between a marine mammal and a vehicle or fishing gear
Additionally, further measures to protect the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales were announced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada on May 10th, 2019. Click here for the full announcement. We will update here as more details about these measures become available.
The announcement includes: "As of June 1, vessels throughout the critical habitat of the Southern Resident killer whale, including recreational boats and whale watching vessels, will be required to stay at least 400 metres away from all killer whales, with exception for commercial whale watching companies who have obtained authorization from the Minister of Transport, who would be allowed to approach Transient killer whales up to 200 metres. Vessels are also asked to reduce their speed to less than 7 knots if they are within 1,000 metres of killer whales in certain areas, and to turn off their echo sounders and turn engines to neutral idle if a whale is within 400 metres . . . To maximize protections in three key foraging areas, interim sanctuary zones will be created off Pender Island, Saturna Island and at Swiftsure Bank. In addition to fishery closures, no vessel traffic will be permitted in these areas from June 1 to October 31, subject to certain exceptions for emergency and Indigenous vessels."
Whales, dolphins, and porpoises can surface very unpredictably in front of your vessel. Baleen whales such as Humpback Whales can remain submerged for 15 to 20 minutes and often exhibit random travel patterns.
When You Suspect You Are in the Vicinity of Whales:
If, despite this vigilance, you experience or witness a collision or other incident of concern such as entanglement or disturbance, report to the
Humpback Whale blows can be 2m high but are difficult to see in windy conditions. The blows of smaller whale species, such as Minke Whales and Killer Whales, can be much more difficult to detect.
Whale Watch Flag: If you see this flag, it means that whales are in the area. Reduce speed and proceed with enhanced caution. To obtain a Whale Watch Flag email us at .
Aggregations of birds often indicate that there is a lot of feed in the area and thereby an enhanced chance of whale presence.
The coloured areas on these maps indicate locations of known whale density off northeastern Vancouver Island, with the dark blue areas highlighting regions where enhanced caution is especially required. Note that the locations of individual marine mammals cannot be predicted with certainty, and therefore the key points to avoid collision should always be followed.
Note that only vessels flying a triangular yellow pennant (like the one to the left) are licensed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to undertake research on marine mammals. This may involve approaching marine mammals within the 200m limit for research purposes. The lettering MML indicates "Marine Mammal License" and the number identifies the individual researcher.
Regarding bow and stern-riding porpoises and dolphins:
Be Whale Wise Marine Wildlife Guidelines for seals, sea lions, and birds on land:
With increasing numbers of Humpbacks on BC's coast, the risk of whale entanglement has become greater. Preliminary results from research conducted by MERS and DFO suggest that over 47% of Humpbacks in BC have been entangled (>1,000 Humpbacks). This data provides an indication of how serious the risk of entanglement is but does not reveal how many Humpbacks die after becoming entangled.
What to do if you find an entangled whale:
1. recognize that the whale is entangled and;
Trailing gear at the surface provides the opportunity for trained responders to attach a tag to track the whale and/or to attach floatation to maintain contact with and slow down an entangled whale. Loss of this gear can significantly reduce rescuers' ability to save the whale.