The diversity and complexity of marine life in the coastal waters off British Columbia and Washington is truly extraordinary.

It is a fragile world. Pollution, global climate change and other impacts are taking their toll at all levels of the coastal food web. Many species of marine wildlife, such as the endangered Southern Resident killer whales, are showing signs of vulnerability.

Meanwhile, vessel traffic in our waters is steadily increasing, placing added pressures on marine animals and their habitats.

Disturbance is when we interfere with an animal’s ability to hunt, feed, communicate, socialize, rest, breed, or care for its young. These are critical processes, necessary for healthy marine wildlife populations.

The noise and close proximity of UAV/drones can disturb wildlife. To prevent disturbances from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV/drone) over the marine environment, operators must use extreme caution. Fly during daylight hours, keep your drone in sight and limit your viewing time to reduce the cumulative impact.

When viewing marine mammals from the air using a drone:

(1) maintain a 1,000-foot minimum altitude within a 0.5 nautical mile (approx. 3,000ft radius) of a marine mammal; and(2) avoid flight maneuvers around marine mammals (on land or in the water), as these actions may cause stress or alter animal behavior.

Know and follow all local regulations – although these rules are technically guidelines in the US, in Canada it’s the law.

It can be challenging to determine your distance from a marine mammal while on the water, even for seasoned mariners. It is always best to err on the side of caution and give the animal as much space as possible.

If your vessel is equipped with RADAR, it can be a useful tool for determining distance. Many units can be adjusted to pick up marine mammal signatures. However, it is important to make sure you’ve adjusted correctly; attenuation and sea clutter can be confused for marine mammal signatures. Remember, SONAR use around marine mammals is not advised.

These guidelines are designed to help you enjoy your wildlife encounter, and reduce the risk of disturbing marine wildlife.

You can help whales, and other wildlife, by basic environmentally friendly practices, such as reducing your carbon footprint by driving less, taking public transport, or exploring alternative energy. You can also help by learning about your local ecosystem and watershed. Do you know where your storm water goes? It might flow straight into Puget Sound, so you don’t want to pour hazardous things down the drain, such as soaps, oils, paint, and fertilizers. You can also learn about positive water management and rain gardens.

For more information visit, https://whalemuseum.org/pages/how-to-help-the-orcas