‘Whales 101 for Boaters’ was held to emphasize safe boating practices in relation to encounters with whales. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

VIDEO AND STORY: Best Boating Practices: How to avoid whales when out on the water

Ocean Wise, Port Authority and Dept. of Fisheries team up to give tips on cohabiting with whales

Ocean Wise Research held an evening to teach people about boating safety with regards to their relationship with the local whale population on Thursday night.

In partnership with the Port of Prince Rupert and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, ‘Whales 101 for Boaters’ had a number of resources available for people looking to keep themselves and their marine neighbours safe while out on the water. Representatives from each organization were available to speak with to learn more as well.

“We really want boaters to stay safe out there, for themselves and for the whales,” said Caitlin Birdsall, manager at the North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative. “We want people to know that there are lots of whales out there, to watch for them and be vigilant, and to slow down if you see any signs of them.”

Environmental technician Caitlin Smith from the Prince Rupert Port Authority shows off how she uses her hydrophone to detect sounds underwater. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

One of the major reasons for conflict between boats and whales is that the animals have difficulty detecting vessels in the water. Therefore approach distances have been established of 100 metres in most instances. For killer whales, resting whales and whales with calves, this is increased to 200 metres.

Diagrams showing just how far boats should stay away from whales while out on the water. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Also on display was Ocean Wise’s new WhaleReport app, which Birdsall said allows people to become “citizen scientists” when out on the water.

“It helps them submit observations of when and where they’ve seen whales in the waters around British Columbia,” Birdsall said. “It helps us learn about where these animals are, and to learn more about their habitat needs.”

The public showed up at the Port’s Interpretive Centre to see what information they could learn about boating and whales. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Equipment used to perform research on whales was on display as well, including a hydrophone that Port Authority environmental technician Caitlin Smith uses to monitor sounds underwater. This ensures that boats passing through areas where there are whales can make necessary adjustments if their noise is disturbing the whales.


Alex Kurial | Journalist
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