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A mandatory distance from marine mammals is now required in Canadian waters

July 11, 2018

Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations were amended July 11 to ensure that whale watching and other water-related activities keep a distance of 100 metres (328 feet) from most whales, dolphins and porpoises to protect these marine mammals from human disturbances.

The obligatory buffer zone is larger for species at greatest risk or already confined by their natural geography, namely:

  • 200 m (658 ft.) for all killer whale populations of British Columbia and in the Pacific Ocean
  • 200 m (658 ft.) for all whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park
  • 400 m (1,312 ft.) for threatened or endangered whales, dolphins and porpoises in the St. Lawrence Estuary (the critical habitat of the endangered St. Lawrence Estuary beluga).

A distance of 50 m (164 ft.) has been set for parts of the Churchill Estuary (which includes the Churchill River) and parts of the Seal River.

The amended regulations clarify what it means to disturb a marine mammal, specifically: feeding, swimming or interacting with the mammal; moving the mammal (or enticing/causing the mammal to move); separating a marine mammal from his or her group or going between a mammal and a calf; trapping marine mammals between a vessel and shoreline, or between boats; as well as tagging or marking a marine mammal.

The new regulations make the previous recommended guidelines obligatory, with fines for infractions ranging from $100,000 to $500,000.