Be Whale Wise informs you on the local laws pertaining to marine mammals, as well as provides additional guidelines that will make you a safer boater and a steward of our natural resources.
The Salish Sea is home to many marine mammals, but most known as the home of the Southern Resident Community of orcas or killer whales (SRKWs). This unique population of orca whales feeds on fish, preferably salmon, and lives in close family groups. The Southern Resident orcas are listed as endangered in both Canada and the United States. Only 72 orcas remain as of June 2020. One of the best ways to help these whales is to Be Whale Wise!
What You Need to Know
- Boats to stay 300 yards from Southern Resident orcas or killer whales on either side.
- Boats to stay 400 yards out of Southern Resident orca’s path/in front and behind the whales
- Boats to go slow (<7 knots) within ½ mile of Southern Resident orcas
- Disengage engines if whales appear within 300 yards.
Boats to stay 100 yards from all other marine mammals (e.g. humpback whales, gray whales, sea lions and seals).
- Boats must stay 400 metres from orcas or killer whales in all southern BC coastal waters between the Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet
- (Note: In Canada, vessels flying a purple Authorized Vessel “AV” flag are authorized to approach non-Southern Resident Killer Whales up to 200 metres.)
- Boats must stay 200 metres from all killer whales in other Canadian Pacific waters and from all whales, dolphins or porpoises if they are resting or with a calf.
- Boats must stay 100 metres from all other whales, dolphins and porpoises in Canadian Pacific waters.
- Boats must stay out of Whale Sanctuaries / Interim Sanctuary Zones located at Swiftsure Bank, off the east coast of Saturna Island and south-west of North Pender Island (June 1 through November 30, 2020).
- Follow the Be Whale Wise Guidelines
- Turn off fish finders and echo sounders when not in use.
- Use the Whale Warning Flag to warn fellow boaters to the presence of whales and be aware of the flag when you’re cruising the area.
- Go slow (<7knots) within 1,000 metres, or a half mile, of killer whales.
- Refrain from fishing, where possible, within 1,000 metres or half mile of killer whales.
Know the Zones
Whale Warning Flags Indicate
- Whales are in the vicinity
- Vessels should slow down and be prepared to change course
- Turn off fishfinders and depth sounders
New NOAA Research on Vessel Disturbance and Southern Residents
Female Southern Residents are found to be more sensitive to vessels closer than 400 yards. Compared to males, females were more likely to switch from foraging behavior to traveling behavior when approached by vessels, suggesting it may be harder for the residents to find food when vessels are closer than 400 yards.
Canadian Management Measures to Protect Southern Resident Killer Whales
Fisheries and Oceans Canada implemented temporary fishery closures and sanctuary zones within SRKW critical habitat and foraging areas during 2020 in order to increase prey availability and reduce disturbance. A mandatory year-round 400-meter vessel approach distance was also implemented starting June 1, 2020.
Visit The Whale Museum
Located in beautiful Friday Harbor, Washington, opened to the public in 1979 as the first museum in the country devoted to a species living in the wild.