Federal fisheries officials are warning Vancouverites against getting up close and personal with the grey whale that’s been spotted in the waters off English Bay this past week.
Canada’s marine wildlife guidelines stipulate boaters, paddlers and viewers must stay at least 100 metres and preferably 400 metres away from whales, according to a reminder from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Those who don’t can be fined up to $100,000 and one year in prison – or both – for a first offence.
“There are methods that allow people to enjoy these beautiful creatures, but definitely from a distance,” fishery officer Eric Jean said Thursday from the Steveston detachment on Thursday. (He recommends binoculars.)
“These animals are here specifically for a reason,” Jean said, whether it’s to forage, find a mate or transition to a new location. “The greater berth we give these animals, the better chance they have to proceed and be wild as they should be.”
While it may not be possible to maintain the 100 metre buffer if the grey whale surfaces near boats moored in English Bay or pops up beside an unsuspecting kayaker, boaters and paddlers are asked to slowly move away from the animal should it come close to them.
Paddlers and boaters are advised to never go directly in front or behind a whale, as they can only sense an obstacle.
“They could potentially become stressed that they cannot get away,” Jean said.
Getting too close to a whale can also be dangerous for a paddler due to the whale’s size and power. But it’s especially risky for motorized boats to travel near whales, Jean said, adding at least one has died this year due to injuries sustained from being hit by a boat.
It’s not clear exactly what sort of fine a kayaker would face for trying to get closer to a whale, Jean said. He wants to educate people on how to behave properly, but reiterated it is a serious offence to harass marine mammals.
“We don’t want to scare anybody, but at the same time we want people to respect the animals,” he said. “It’s exciting to have a whale in the area. People get excited, but that excitement clouds their judgment perhaps.”
The DFO is asking anyone who sees someone interacting with a whale to call its Observe and Report line at 1-800-465-4336. The line goes to its radio room and is forwarded to officers in the field who can investigate.
So fine them. They post there videos all the time, there’s your evidence. Do something about it instead of “urging” people to keep there distance.
I like whales, they taste good!