During Ferry Crossings
and Whale Watching
From a Private or Commercial Vessel
Whales Without Harassment
Harassment Incident Report
for Small Boats (including Kayakers) Near Whales
Watching marine mammals
from shore is, of course, the least obtrusive method. You will need binoculars
or a high powered scope. A tripod is often helpful when waiting for the
marine mammals to surface after a dive. A high cliff or other exposure
with an ocean view is best. On Grand Manan Island there are numerous locations
that provide opportune viewing - Long Eddy Point (or the Whistle), Swallowtail,
Southwest Head, and White Head Island (Gull Cove). Because of the steep
cliffs at some of these locations, you can literally look down on the entire
whale (or seal). Best viewing times are often early morning or late evening
when herring and marine mammals move closer to shore.
During Ferry Crossings
A number of ferries operate
in the Bay of Fundy. The ferry crossing to Grand Manan Island from Blacks
Harbour, NB, can be an excellent vantage point to see whales, porpoises
and pelagic seabirds. The 1.5 hour crossing passes through feeding areas
of marine mammals and seabirds. The view from the top deck is spectacular.
Binoculars are useful. The most common species seen from this ferry are
harbour porpoises, minke, finback and sometimes humpback whales. On occasion
right whales have also been seen but it is not usual. The ferry crossing
between Saint John, NB, and Digby, NS, is another possibility, as well
as the ferry crossings to Deer Island, NB, from Letete, the Campobello-Deer
Island-Eastport summer ferry, and the Grand Manan-White Head ferry. Harbour
porpoises and seals would be the most likely species seen, as well as numerous
seabirds. Short ferry hops between East Ferry-Tiverton, Freeport-Westport,
both in Nova Scotia on the route from Digby to Long Island to Brier Island,
sometimes have surprises. A right whale was seen from the latter ferry
and Whale Watching
Whale watchers should be
aware that in order to closely approach a whale for research purposes,
a permit must be obtained from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
In the Bay of Fundy, whale watch vessels while carrying passengers can
not hold permits to conduct research. Therefore, close approaches by passenger
carrying vessels in the "name of research" should be questioned. However,
opportunistic data collection, such as position of whales, behaviour and
photographs when whales approach the vessel are allowed and can be a valuable
contribution to research programs. We use these data frequently at the
Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station. They can be recorded
without interruption of a whale watch trip, and without disturbing the
whales. Our researchers who work on whale watch vessels can develop a valuable
perspective of the Bay of Fundy from year to year and even week to week.
The data collection can also be an added bonus to your trip, whether collected
by the crew or by yourself.
Back to top
From a Private or Commercial Vessel
Whale watching can be an
enjoyable experience without disturbing the marine mammals you are watching.
Remember that whales are wild creatures in their natural environment, not
captive animals who perform tricks at a trainer's command. While you watch,
they will feed, mate, nurse calves, rest and play. The behaviours associated
with these activities are natural and beautiful. What is not natural is
changing behaviours through irresponsible activities in habitat area.
Watching whales is a privilege,
not a right. You should think of yourself as a guest in the whale's home
and act accordingly. Whale watching is one of the most rapidly growing
tourist activity world-wide. In many areas, the whale watching industry
has brought significant and much needed economic growth, as well as heightened
local interest in marine mammal conservation. Other positive impacts of
whale watching include public education and contributions to scientific
studies of various whale species. Whale watching can be fun and educational,
but great care must be taken to ensure that the animals are not harassed
or bothered. As a whale watcher, you can play an active role in seeing
that your whale watch experience is a safe and enjoyable one - for you
and the whales.
When you go whale watching,
make sure that you and/or the vessel operator is familiar with:
Basic whale behaviour
abides by: Federal Whale Watching Guidelines, Local Code of Ethics,
Coast Guard Safety Regulations. They should also have liability
insurance and the crew is trained in Basic First Aid and CPR.
You can help eliminate disturbance
to whales and other marine wildlife by considering the following:
Approach whale watching with
reasonable expectations. Those wonderful wildlife documentaries you watch
on television took months to film - don't expect that king of experience
on a half day excursion. In many instances irresponsible demands on the
part of the whale watch passengers are partly responsible for situations
where harassment occur. Become familiar with Department of Fisheries and
Oceans guidelines for whale watching before you sail.
Choose your tour operator carefully.
Whale watch companies in the Bay of Fundy adhere to a Code of Ethics which
governs their behaviour around the whales, make sure your operator has
signed the code and abides by the guidelines. Ask to read the code.
Don't be afraid to express your
concerns to your captain if you witness actions on their part which harass
whales. In a competitive business environment, they want their customers
to have a good experience.
Remember that the whales are
part of a complicated ecosystem. They interact and co-exist with other
creatures. The very best experiences occur when the boat engine is turned
off. The quiet allow you to fully experience life in the Bay. However,
situations may arise when noise is necessary to alert the whales to the
presence of vessel and avoid a collision. This can be done with an echo
sounder or light tapping on a rail or the deck. The whales are more likely
to engage in natural behaviours when they are not afraid or harassed. Listen
to the sound of the whale's breathing in the distance, take time to watch
the seabirds who often feed on the same prey species as the whales. Let
your operator know that getting very close to a large whale is not your
only interest. They'll be delighted to share the full experience with you.
Make sure your tour company
provides commentary aboard the boat. Your experience will be greatly enhanced
by the interpretation. While it's not necessary to have a marine biologist
on board, the captain and guide should be fully versed in whale behaviour.
Keep in mind the fishers and other people local to the area can provide
a lifetime of insight into the environment. Most of the tour companies
in the Bay are run by local families with a wealth of knowledge and information
Vessels should be well maintained,
abide by all Coast Guard Regulations , and have all the necessary safety
equipment provided. Familiarize yourself with the vessel and equipment
when you begin the journey. Request a safety briefing if one is not provided.
Never leave the helm when travelling
in the vicinity of whales. Quick action by the helmsperson may prevent
accidents but if no one is at the helm serious injuries can occur to both
whale, passengers and vessel. Back to top
Remember to bring warm clothes,
layers are best with wind breakers. It may be hot on shore but the cold
waters of the Bay of Fundy will be chilling. Fog will further reduce the
apparent temperature. Long pants are in order. Gloves, sweaters, wool socks
and long underwear are not out of place. You may not need these initially
but by the end of the trip they will be welcomed. Some vessels carry extra
clothes and blankets. Remember that alcohol is not recommended if you are
feeling cold and should be avoided entirely if there is any risk of hypothermia
(lowering of the body temperature).
All vessels carry life vests
as part of Coast Guard regulations. However, most do not require that you
wear them since they are bulky and make it difficult to see your feet.
If you feel more comfortable wearing a vest, please enquire with the captain
or bring your own, especially for active children. Some vessels do carry
more comfortable life jackets as well as the standard Coast Guard approved
vests. If the seas are rolling remember to have one hand for the
vessel at all times to prevent falling. Trips on inflatables usually
provide a full flotation suit and require that you wear it. Be sure
to hold on to prevent bouncing out of the vessel.
Sun block is essential even
if a canopy is present over the passenger area. Sun reflects from the water
surface and will burn! You may also experience "wind burn". A moisturizer
may help to eliminate the drying effects of the wind.
If you are prone to motion sickness,
remedies should be taken before embarking on the journey. Prolonged looking
through binoculars or cameras or staring at the wake of the vessel can
promote motion sickness. Be careful what you eat before you board
- avoid greasy foods and too many liquids. Keep your eyes focusing
on the horizon. Move toward the stern and midship rather than the
bow where the vessel's motion may be more noticeable. Avoid closed
spaces such as cabins; fresh, moving air is better.
Remember to bring binoculars
(7 x 35 or 7 x 50 are good for water use since the magnification isn't
great enough to accentuate the shakiness of your hand or vessel), cameras
(motion and still), film, and extra batteries. A telephoto lens is helpful.
Although you may be excited to see your first whale, if you have a short
lens the photograph will be disappointing unless the whale is very close.
Remember to put your camera down at times so you can see more of the whales.
Sounds are also important and a tape recorder is helpful to record the
impressive sounds of the blows, tail lobbing, etc., and the excitement
of fellow passengers. Some vessels carry extra film if you run out.
Some vessels provide hot beverages,
snacks and even meals. Check before you leave. If not bring along some
snacks such as crackers. Limiting the amount of fluids ingested may
be helpful if you are prone to motion sickness.
Most vessels have marine toilets
with the exception of inflatables and small open speed boats. Make sure
you check how long you will be at sea if a marine toilet is not available.
If you want a record of where
you saw whales, your captain may be able to provide latitude and longitude.
Navigation equipment today is very accurate. Bring a small notebook so
you can record this and other things about the trip. Most companies provide
an information sheet upon which you can also make notes. If you have a
hand held GPS, bring it along.
If you are travelling with children,
bring some activities which can be done on a moving vessel. These may not
be appropriate on vessels such as inflatables and small open speed boats.
For any electronic equipment,
protection from salt spray is critical. Salt water will destroy equipment
quickly. Plastic zipable bags are very useful. Do not spread
the water around if your equipment does get sprayed but rather daub with
absorbent cloths or pads and rinse with fresh water. Equipment should
always be cleaned after a trip at sea.
There may be times when very
little appears to be happening. Some like to bring books or headsets
for music for these times but remember that things may happen quickly (such
as a breaching basking shark) and your best opportunity to see these is
if you are constantly on the lookout.
Remember that anything containing
a magnet (such as cameras, headphones) should not be placed beside the
ship's compass. Some metal objects (such as cutlery) will also interfere.
Ship safety is the responsibility
of the captain and/or owner and is under the jurisdiction of the Canadian
Coast Guard. Regulations vary depending on the size of the vessel, number
of passengers, and area and time of operation. Most whale watching companies
are licensed only for daylight cruises.
Captains must have a Limited
Masters Certificate, valid for five years. The minimum requirements for
a Limited Masters is two months service on a ship of not less than five
tons gross, a valid sight test, completion of a Marine Emergency Duties,
Small Vessel Safety (MED A2) course, a valid Basic First Aid course, a
Canadian citizen or permanent resident, at least 18 years old, medical
certificate, proper examination of navigation, safety, etc. For larger
vessels and number of passengers, a Limited Mate and an Engineer may be
Vessels under 5 tons and
twelve passenger or less are not regulated to the same degree, but must
have sufficient number of life jackets, flares, fire extinguisher, etc.
(the amount of safety equipment depends on the length of the vessel).
It is your responsibility
to become familiar with the location of life jackets and other safety equipment
(fire fighting, first aid kit, safety flares). A safety demonstration should
be included in the introduction. If it is not, please ask for one. Try
a life vest on to make sure you are comfortable with how they should be
worn. It is good practice to wear life jackets but most provided are uncomfortable.
If you have your own that is comfortable, bring it along. All vessels should
carry a sufficient number of children's life jackets as well but again
it is a good idea to bring your own if you have them. Back
Whales Without Harassment
federal Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for ensuring the protection
of marine mammals. The Fisheries Act prohibits any form of harassment
of cetaceans, including repeated attempts to pursue, disperse, herd whales
and any repeated intentional act or negligence resulting in the disruption
of their normal behaviour. Individuals who contravene the Cetacean
Protection Regulations are guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not
exceeding $500,000 and twenty-four (24) lmonths of imprisonment (Fisheries
Act art. 78). Harassing whales changes or interferes with their behaviour,
forces them away from their habitat at critical times in their annual feeding
cycle or reproduction cycle and may cause them injuries.
Summary of Guidelines:These
guidelines apply to recreational boaters and captains of sight-seeing boats.
Their implementation helps to enforce the regulations.
Harassment Incident Report
Do not hunt, chase, follow,
disperse, drive, herd or encircle the whales.
Avoid any sudden changes of
course or speed and sudden stops in reverse speed.
Avoid heading directly toward
If in an area known to be frequented
by whales, post a lookout to avoid collisions.
Travel parallel to whales.
The whales may come close to
you: if they do, do not chase them. These animals may be calves that approach
while their mothers are submerged feeding. Keep clear of the tail.
If you are operating a sailing
vessel with an auxiliary motor, leaving it in idle or turn on the echo
sounder to signal your presence.
If it is not possible to detour
around a whale or group of whales, slow down immediately and wait until
you are more than 400 m (1300') away before resuming speed.
Limit the time spent with a
particular whale or group of whales.
Definition of harassment
"to worry, trouble, or torment; to trouble by repeated raids or attacks".
If you witness a whale harrassment, please print the ATTACHED
FORM and complete to the best of your ability. If you can not print
the form, copy down the information.
Please pass along this form
to your local fishery officer or mail to:
Marine Mammal Co-Ordinator
Back to top
Species at Risk Office
Bedford Institute of Oceanography
PO Box 1006
Dartmouth, NS Canada B2Y
of ETHICS for Bay of Fundy Water-based Tour Operators
purpose of this code is to foster an environment of co-operation and trust
among water-based tour operators for the protection and safety of the whales
and other marine wildlife, and the safety and understanding of their
passengers. Tour operators agree to abide by this code for the protection
and preservation of whales and the marine environment, and the education
of their passengers and other boat operators. Adherence to this code demonstrates
care and concern for whale conservation.
A vessel will be defined as either a motorised vessel or a kayak group.
A kayak group is defined as no more than 10 kayaks paddling in a co-ordinated
group. Back to top
vessel to locate a whale or group of whales will have first viewing priority.
The vessel is under no obligation to announce the location of the whales
to other operators.
than two vessels will view a whale or group of whales at a time within
100m of the whale or group. If the whales are travelling, the viewing
vessels will maintain a respectable distance to avoid herding the
of 30 minutes will be spent viewing a whale or group of whales if more
than two vessels are in the immediate vicinity. Passengers will be
informed that we are moving off to allow other vessels to view the
whale and that we must avoid crowding the animals and endangering their
safety. Motorised vessels will also take care not to crowd or endanger
the safety of kayakers.
showing avoidance behaviour such as turning away or increasing speed will
be left alone.
will stand-by on a designated VHF radio channel for purposes of communication
when one vessel is viewing or waiting to view a more than whale or
group of whales, and we will co-ordinate the selection of the channel with
whale watch vessels from other areas in the Bay of Fundy.
approaching another vessel already engaged in whale watching will contact
that vessel and arrange viewing priority.
distance will be kept when waiting to view so as not to crowd the whale
or viewing vessels . While waiting tour operators will engage in
other activities such as sea bird and seal viewing, or conservation education.
are stopping to listen for whale blows in the fog, as a courtesy other
vessels in the immediate vicinity will do the same.
will cover different areas as much as possible so that not all vessels
will be converging on the same location.
vicinity of fixed fishing gear whales will not be herded in the direction
of the gear.
for Small Boats (including Kayakers) Near Whales
Remember that whales are wild
animals, should be treated with respect and given a wide berth.
Although whales are seldom aggressive
unless provoked, their massive size can be inadvertently dangerous to small
vessels. If you are unsure of what the whale is doing it is best
to keep your distance.
When kayaking always stay in
a group to prevent herding the whale and to increase personal safety.
Never aggressively approach
a whale. You may get more than you bargained for.
Make your presence known to
the whale by simple tapping on the kayak or side of the boat. Whales
have very keen hearing and will detect slight noises unless preoccupied
with other activities.
Always approach a whale from
the side, never from behind. A whale's most powerful part is its
tail. Whales are blind from behind or directly in front. Their
eyes are well below the water's surface.
Never deliberately paddle or
motor over a whale. If you startle the whale it will try to leave
or see what is over it. The pressure wave from the whale's movement
can be dangerous.
If a whale surfaces under your
kayak or small boat, stay calm and wait for the whale to set the vessel
down. Try to leave the area or head to shore if the whale persists.
Leave something at the surface to divert the whale's attention if necessary.
If you end up in the water, stay calm and wait for someone to pick you
up or help you back in your boat.
Never move toward a whale active
at the surface - lunge feeding, breaching, tail lobbing, flipper slapping.
The whale may not expect you to be there and accidents can happen.
Usually the whale is aware of your presence but it will be less cautious
when engaged in active behaviours.
Do not approach a courtship
group of right whales and be alert for whales leaving or joining the group.
Males can be very aggressive in large courtship groups and may regard you
as a competitor. Calves are sometimes involved in these groups and
can get confused and breach unexpectedly. Females will sometimes
use objects, including boats, at the surface as part of the courtship "chase".
emain calm and quiet, unless
a whale approaches without acknowledging your presence and you are in danger
of collision. Whales have keen hearing and do hear voices, paddle
Never approach a "sleeping"
whale, i.e. a whale lying quietly at the surface. These should not
be disturbed, and if awakened suddenly, may behave unexpectedly.
Whale Watching Links
Manan Tourism Site (available tours from Grand Manan)
Brunswick Tourism (alphabetical listing of tours available in New Brunswick)
watching in Nova Scotia Fundy area (Listing of some of the companies
operating from Digby to Brier Island, NS)
to New Brunswick (whale tales and sounds)
Watching Net (Global listing of whale watching companies)