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Be whale wise

Killer whale sighting in B.C. is a stern reminder to locals

Sunday, May 17, 2015, 12:41 PM - A pod of killer whales were spotted in the Nanaimo area of British Columbia and their sudden appearance ahead of the long weekend has prompted officials to remind any residents heading out into the water to remain cautious.

"For many, the May long weekend represents the start of the boating season," said Tessa Danelesko, coordinator for the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Networks with the Vancouver Aquarium, in a statement. "It's also a time when many species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises are seen off the B.C. coast, giving many boaters the opportunity to have incredible marine wildlife encounters.

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But those powerful moments come with a high risk attached to it for the cetaceans.

"When we get too close, approach too quickly or make too much noise, we may disrupt the whales and interfere with foraging, resting and socializing," Danalesko explained. "Boats can also directly injure cetaceans through collisions."

Recent orca sightings come just days after a whale carcass was found floating in the Burrard Inlet in Vancouver. The fin whale was struck and killed by a cruise ship, returning to the harbour form a sightseeing trip at sea.

What to do

  • Be cautious and courteous Just like crossing the road, make sure to look in all directions before approaching an area that could have whales.
  • Slow down: Keeping your speed under 7 knots is the best way to avoid an abrupt course changes if you're in proximity of a whale.
  • Stay away: The best advice is to keep away from any whales when possible. If you see one heading toward you, move out of the way.
  • Don't surprise them Just like humans, whales don't enjoy being caught off-guard. Approach and depart whales from the side and try to move in a direction that is parallel to that of the cetacean.
  • In and out: Try to keep your viewing time under 30 minutes.
  • Don't get too close Don't position your vessel to be any closer to a whale than 100 metres. If you find yourself any closer than that, turn off the engine and keep the vessel in neutral.

While the Vancouver Aquarium warns against getting too close to whales in their natural habitat, they do encourage boaters to report any whale sightings, in order to assist with research efforts. Reporting can be done via their website or by telephone.

Source: B.C. Cetaceans Sightings Network | CBC

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