Thank you for your interest in how to be a responsible and safe vessel operator in the presence of marine wildlife.
Our "See a Blow, Go Slow" campaign provides information about Marine Mammal Regulations in Canada, how to avoid collisions with marine mammals, and what to do if a collision or entanglement occurs.
If you have witnessed an incident of concern, please contact the DFO Incident Reporting Line at 1-800-465-4336 /
Marine Mammal Regulations in Canada
Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations were updated in July 2018.
Minimum approach distances for vessels:
Mandatory reporting of any accidental contact between a marine mammal and a vehicle or fishing gear
Whales, dolphins, and porpoises can surface very unpredictably in front of your vessel. Baleen whales such as Humpback Whales can remain submerged for 15 to 20 minutes and often exhibit random travel patterns.
When You Suspect You Are in the Vicinity of Whales:
If, despite this vigilance, you experience or witness a collision or other incident of concern such as entanglement or disturbance, report to the
Humpback Whale blows can be 2m high but are difficult to see in windy conditions. The blows of smaller whale species, such as Minke Whales and Killer Whales, can be much more difficult to detect.
Whale Warning Flag: If you see this flag, it means that whales are in the area. Reduce speed and proceed with enhanced caution. To obtain a Whale Warning Flag, click here.
Aggregations of birds often indicate that there is a lot of feed in the area and thereby an enhanced chance of whale presence.
Areas of Known Humpback Whale Density
The coloured areas on these maps indicate locations of known whale density off northeastern Vancouver Island, with the dark blue areas highlighting regions where enhanced caution is especially required. Note that the locations of individual marine mammals cannot be predicted with certainty, and therefore the key points to avoid collision should always be followed.
Note that only vessels flying a triangular yellow pennant (like the one to the left) are licensed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to undertake research on marine mammals. This may involve approaching marine mammals within the 200m limit for research purposes. The lettering MML indicates "Marine Mammal License" and the number identifies the individual researcher.
Video on the Research Flag, Whale Warning Flag and Authorized Vessel Flag:
Additional Guidelines - "Be Whale Wise"
Regarding bow and stern-riding porpoises and dolphins:
Be Whale Wise Marine Wildlife Guidelines for seals, sea lions, and birds on land:
With increasing numbers of Humpbacks on BC's coast, the risk of whale entanglement has become greater. Preliminary results from research conducted by MERS and DFO suggest that over 47% of Humpbacks in BC have been entangled (>1,000 Humpbacks). This data provides an indication of how serious the risk of entanglement is but does not reveal how many Humpbacks die after becoming entangled.
What to do if you find an entangled whale:
1. recognize that the whale is entangled and;
Trailing gear at the surface provides the opportunity for trained responders to attach a tag to track the whale and/or to attach floatation to maintain contact with and slow down an entangled whale. Loss of this gear can significantly reduce rescuers' ability to save the whale.