This submitted photo shows Paul Cottrell, wearing the red jacket, helping to disentangle a humpback whale.

Humpback whale safety campaign launched as population booms on B.C. coast

‘See a blow? Go slow!’ campaign aimed at protecting boaters and whales

‘See a blow? Go slow!’

That’s the slogan behind an educational campaign developed by the Marine Education and Research Society to prevent potentially catastrophic collisions by boosting boater awareness of the whales surrounding them.

MERS’ education and communications coordinator Jackie Hildering told the Westerly News that B.C.’s once dwindling humpback whale population is surging on the West Coast—rising from seven individuals in 2003 to 86 in 2018—creating a hazardous minefield in local waters.

“I am extraordinarily privileged in having seen the increase of humpbacks on our coast but, with that comes the reality that humpbacks are a game-changer for boaters on our coast and as brilliant as it is that they are back as they are, there is not the public awareness around what it means to have humpbacks back in our waters,” she said.

“In an ideal world we would be able to set up the equivalent of ‘elk crossing’ signs, but that’s very difficult with a marine species.”

She added that humpbacks move differently than the orcas and grey whales that boaters are used to and that collisions can have serious impacts, citing a recent incident where a boater was paralyzed after a crash with a humpback.

“They are, of course, huge and they do not have biosonar as do toothed whales like orca. They are extremely acrobatic and they are most often not going in one direction. Boaters have to be alert on our coast to the fact that they could pop up almost anywhere,” she said.

“It is like running a gauntlet now in many areas of our coast where you have to be vigilant all the time. One would assume that boaters would be like that, but we have found out that this is not the case and that they criss-cross as if nothing would suddenly surface…There’s such a lack of awareness about the number of humpbacks back on our coast that boaters are putting themselves at risk.”

Hildering was speaking from Tofino’s Fourth Street Dock. She was there for the installation of a new educational sign promoting safe boating. MERS has helped install roughly 130 such signs and hopes to have one installed at every dock, harbour and boat ramp on Vancouver Island.

The signs are supplemented by online resources available at www.seeablowgoslow.org.

Hildering added the campaign also includes information around what boaters should do if they come upon an entangled whale.

“We’re desperately trying to educate people that most often if you cut lines at the surface you are cursing the whale because the whale could still be entangled under the surface,” she said.

“Our research, looking at scars on the whales, is that 50 per cent of the humpbacks in B.C. waters have been entangled at some point…This is a huge eye opener about how serious a threat this actually is and of course that’s not capturing how many of them become entangled, die and sink to the bottom of the ocean.”

READ MORE: DFO declares Swiftsure and LaPerouse Banks critical habitats for killer whales

READ MORE: Humpback whale that washed up near Ucluelet had broken jaw

READ MORE: Sea lion shot in Ucluelet euthanized at Vancouver Aquarium



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

From left, Nicole Doe and Jackie Hildering of the Marine Education and Research Society and Michelle Segal of the Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society smile next to a new sign warning boaters to be on the look out for whales while boating. The sign also includes information around entanglements and how to report incidents to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Just Posted

Early morning break-in at Campbell River hardware store

‘Brazen’ break in at Adam’s Tarp and Tool in the early hours of April 9, RCMP say

Message from North Island MLA Claire Trevena ahead of Easter weekend

‘Our government is trying to assist, whether it is with rent or financial support’

Campbell River grocery worker’s car stolen while he works

A local grocery store clerk is missing his vehicle after it was… Continue reading

B.C. First Nations Health Authority launches virtual doctor program

Program to provide primary health care through COVID-19 pandemic

VIDEO: More than 85 people displaced by Campbell River apartment fire

Traffic is being diverted around Dogwood Street and 9th Avenue

Campbell River community COVID-19 agencies, services and resources list

The list outlines status of social agencies in the community

Cowichan Valley man dies in single-vehicle collision

First responders called to Miller Road shortly after midnight on Thursday

B.C., Alberta health ministers urge public to stay home Easter weekend

Regional politicians, online petition calling for closure of provincial border to non-essential traffic

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

VIDEO: B.C. singer creates frontline workers tribute song

Cambree Lovesy’s song saluting those battling COVID-19 draws interest online

Statistics Canada report looks at COVID-19’s impact on violence in the family

Police across Canada reported almost 100,000 cases of intimate partner violence in 2018

Most Read