It doesn’t have to be. In fact, going whale watching can instill a sense of awe and admiration for these beautiful animals. It can offer an experience where we learn about their threats and what we can do to protect them, even foster future conservationists. However, whale watching can also disturb and harm whales if we approach them too quickly, get too close or make too much noise. The St. Lawrence Estuary population of the Beluga Whale and the Pacific and Atlantic populations of Blue Whales, all listed as Endangered on Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), even have whale watching listed as potential threats.
So how do we watch whales responsibly? Fisheries and Oceans Canada is making sure that all marine mammals, including whales, can be enjoyed as long as the Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act are adhered to. This includes staying at least 100 metres away from most whales, dolphins and porpoises. For some circumstances, the minimum distance is even greater. In the St. Lawrence Estuary for example, you must stay 400 metres away from Beluga Whales, Blue Whales and other species of whales, dolphins and porpoises that are listed as either Endangered or Threatened under SARA. For a complete list of the laws and regulations, be sure to visit DFO’s website. Anyone found not abiding by these Regulations can be charged under the Fisheries Act.