There’s a tense excitement in the air as a boat full of travellers wait quietly on ocean waters, eyes scanning the horizon for the distinctive mist of a whale’s blow. A guide points their finger and signals to the group, heads turning to anticipate where the whale could surface next. At a safe distance from the whale, these guests are treated to the slow, graceful ballet of a humpback slipping above the surface then flipping its tail for a deeper dive.
It’s a scene many travellers to Vancouver Island have at the top of their bucket lists, whether they’re booking with a whale watching tour, boating through the inside passage, or kayaking Vancouver Island bays and coves.
That first indication of a whale’s presence, the blow, is key to keeping these ecoadventure expeditions safe for both passengers and the marine mammals off the coast of Vancouver Island.
See A Blow? Go Slow!
The Marine Education and Research Society are the pioneers behind the simple, catchy phrase; and their efforts have translated into a greater awareness around marine mammal and boater safety and minimized collisions.
What you need to know about marine mammal viewing
- You must stay at least 100m away from marine mammals
- Reduce your speed to 7 knots when within 400 meters of any whale
- If a whale surfaces when closer than 100 m to your vessel, stop immediately
- Approach whales from the side, and keep clear of their path
- Whales surface suddenly and randomly. They’re also very unaware of boats
- Even if you’re not looking for whales, keep your eyes out for a blow
- Never feed marine wildlife
Choosing a whale watching tour operator
There are many responsible wildlife watching operators on Vancouver Island. When booking with an operator, here are a few tips:
- Ask them about how they’re following the Whale Wise guidelines
- Choose operators that offer educational wildlife viewing through naturalists and researchers
- Participate in conservation efforts by booking with operators that are actively involved in promoting wildlife safety and research
Reporting an incident
If you see a marine mammal disturbance while out on the water, it’s important to let the Marine Mammal Incident Reporting Line know. The knowledge gained from the reporting line is essential in research, enforcement and education around marine mammals.
The number for the marine mammal reporting line is 1-800-465-4336, and if you are out of range of cell service, you can contact the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16. Make sure to relay location, time, boat name, and species.
For more information about responsible marine mammal viewing, visit SeeABlowGoSlow.org or the Marine Education & Research Society website. To book a marine mammal tour on Vancouver Island, browse our listings of whale watching tours.