Once widely feared, killer whales are now far better understood than they were only three decades ago.  But today there is growing concern for their future.  Pollution, overfishing, boat traffic and other human activities all pose a threat to the whales and their fragile marine environment.

Vessel Guidelines

By following the Be Whale Wise Guidelines you are helping to reduce the impact of your vessel on marine mammals.

Be Whale Wise Marine Wildlife Guidelines for Boaters, Paddlers and Viewers (Revised 2006):

1. BE CAUTIOUS and COURTEOUS: approach areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity with extreme caution. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure.

2. SLOW DOWN: reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 metres/yards of the nearest whale. Avoid abrupt course changes.

3. KEEP CLEAR of the whales’ path. If whales are approaching you, cautiously move out of the way.

4. DO NOT APPROACH whales from the front or from behind. Always approach and depart whales from the side, moving in a direction parallel to the direction of the whales.

5. DO NOT APPROACH or position your vessel closer than 100 metres/yards to any whale.

Stay at least 200 yards away from any killer whale if in inland waters of Washington State - east of the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and south of the U.S./Canada international boundary.

6. If your vessel is not in compliance with the 100 metres/yards approach guideline (#5), place engine in neutral and allow whales to pass.

7. STAY on the OFFSHORE side of the whales when they are traveling close to shore.

8. LIMIT your viewing time to a recommended maximum of 30 minutes. This will minimize the cumulative impact of many vessels and give consideration to other viewers.

9. DO NOT swim with, touch or feed marine wildlife.

Bow and stern-riding porpoises and dolphins:

1. DO NOT drive through groups of porpoises or dolphins to encourage bow or stern-riding.

2. Should dolphins or porpoises choose to ride the bow wave of your vessel, avoid sudden course changes. Hold course and speed or reduce speed gradually.

Seals, sea lions and birds on land:

1. BE CAUTIOUS AND QUIET when around haul-outs and bird colonies, especially during breeding, nesting and pupping seasons (generally May to September).

2. REDUCE SPEED, minimize wake, wash and noise, and then slowly pass without stopping.

3. AVOID approaching closer than 100metres/yards to any marine mammals or birds.

4. PAY ATTENTION and move away, slowly and cautiously, at the first sign of disturbance or agitation.

5. DO NOT disturb, move, feed or touch any marine wildlife, including seal pups. If you are concerned about a potentially sick or stranded animal, contact your local stranding network where available. To report disturbance, sick, injured, or deal marine mammals in BC, call the Marine Mammal Incident Reporting hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

The Be Whale Wise Marine Wildlife Guidelines for Boaters, Paddlers and Viewers (Revised 2006) are endorsed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and BC Parks in Canada, and by NOAA Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the US.

The 'Be Whale Wise' target highlights important vessel guidelines around whales




Photo:  Doug Sandilands
The Straitwatch Program provides on the water education to boaters on whale watching guidelines around Victoria and the Johnstone Strait areas in the summer months.