Whale Watching Tips for Boaters

Proposed updates to the Marine Mammal Regulations

The Government intends to bring forward amendments the Marine Mammal Regulations to provide greater protection for marine mammals. A minimum 100 metre approach distance for most marine mammals will be put forward in upcoming proposed regulatory amendments. Up until now, this 100m buffer has been a voluntary guideline. When it comes to Southern Resident Killer Whales, this distance may be doubled to 200 metres. Until regulations can be updated, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is asking whale watching and eco-tourism operators asking them to immediately update their guidelines to reflect what is proposed in the new regulations.

Whale and marine mammal watching is an exciting boating activity enjoyed by Canadians and visitors to Canada every year. Viewing marine mammals in their natural surroundings provides an opportunity for the public to gain a better appreciation of these majestic creatures.

In our excitement, we sometimes forget that our presence has an effect on wildlife and their habitat. Just like us, marine mammals need space to find food, choose mates, raise young, socialize, and rest.

When we get too close, approach too fast, or make too much noise, we may be disrupting these activities and causing unnecessary stress to the mammal. In some cases, we may be threatening their lives.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is committed to the welfare of marine mammals, and as such would like to provide the public with the following whale watching tips for boaters to ensure you enjoy your wildlife encounter while reducing the risk of disturbing marine wildlife.

  • Keep your distance: Make sure to keep your vessel a safe distance away from the mammal at all times.
  • Slow down: Reduce your speed as you approach the mammal. Don't change directions quickly.
  • Approach from the side: Never approach a mammal head on as this will cut-off the mammals' movements. Don't park your boat in the path of a marine mammal.
  • Keep clear: Never encircle mammals with boats or place your boat between individual mammals. If there are already several boats present, don't approach.

When engaged in whale watching look for the following signs that indicate a mammal is being disturbed:

  • Continually changing its swimming speed or direction
  • Diving more often
  • Discontinuing its activities of vocalizing, feeding, resting, nursing or socializing.
  • Leaving the area
  • Beginning or discontinuing aerial behaviors such as lob-tailing, flippering, or breaching

If you notice any of these signs, carefully move your boat away from the whale.

Be whale wise
Be whale wise

For more information, visit:

To report a marine mammal disturbance or harassment

Please visit Report a Sighting or Incident.

Date modified: