New regulations increase boating distance from killer whales

As of June 1, boats must stay 400 metres away from the southern resident orcas

  • May. 17, 2019 11:30 a.m.

With boating season upon us, Peter Hamilton of Lifeforce Ocean Friends reminds boaters to keep a safe distance from orca pods. As of June 1, the boat distances to the southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) in Canada will increase to 400 metres.

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In addition to the minimum distance approach of 200 metres in all B.C. waters for all killer whale populations, such as the northern resident killer whales (NRKW), transients and offshores, the new 400-metre approach distance will be apply to all killer whales in the SRKW critical habitat areas.

“No Go Zones” for all vessels are at Pender Island, Saturna Island and Swiftsure Banks. Whale-watching companies can apply to the Ministry of Transport to be authorized to approach up to 200 metres to watch transient orcas, since they can determine that they are not SRKWs.

Speeds must be reduced to less than seven knots when within 1,000 metres. Vessel operators should turn off their echo sounders and turn engines to neutral idle if a whale is within 400 m. Extra care should be taken when babies are present.

WATCH: Orca plays with a sailboat in Comox harbour

For more information on the restrictions, visit the Government of Canada website.