Advice: Whales & Dolphins

WiseOceans aims to provide you with advice relating to different aspects of the marine environment:  here we focus on Whale & Dolphin watching

advice1Report your UK Cetacean sightings in Scottish Waters online 
The Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit  (CRRU) is a small non-profit research organisation based in northeast Scotland dedicated to the welfare, conservation and protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) through scientific investigation, environmental education, and the provision of a 24 hour veterinary service for sick, injured and stranded individuals.
Your sightings are important!  Each record received provides useful information about the distribution and occurrence of the numerous cetacean species in Scottish waters.  If you have been lucky enough to see a whale, dolphin or porpoise, please send your report using the online form. For help with identification, please refer to CRRU’s identification key or species fact sheets. For stranded animals, however, please refer to the Rescue pages for reporting.  A downloadable Sightings Form is also available for printing.

Report your sightings, thanks!

Be Whale Wise – minimise your impacts

These guidelines are designed to help you enjoy your wildlife encounter, and reduce the risk of disturbing marine wildlife.
The diversity and complexity of marine life in the coastal waters off British Columbia and Washington is truly extraordinary.
It is a fragile world. Pollution, global climate change and other impacts are taking their toll at all levels of the coastal food web. Many species of marine wildlife, such as the endangered Southern Resident killer whales, are showing signs of vulnerability.
Meanwhile, vessel traffic in our waters is steadily increasing, placing added pressures on marine animals and their habitats.
Be Whale Wise

Guidelines for WHALES, PORPOISES AND DOLPHINS watching

  1. BE CAUTIOUS and COURTEOUS: approach areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity with extreme caution. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure.
  2. SLOW DOWN: reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 metres/yards of the nearest whale. Avoid abrupt course changes
  3. KEEP CLEAR of the whales’ path. If whales are approaching you, cautiously move out of the way.
  4. DO NOT APPROACH from the front or from behind. Always approach and depart from the side, moving in a direction parallel to the direction of the whales, porpoises or dolphins..
  5. DO NOT APPROACH or position your vessel closer than 100 metres/yards to any whale, porpoise or dolphin.*Killer Whales
  6. If your vessel is not in compliance with the 100 metres/yards approach guideline (#5), place engine in neutral and allow whales to pass.
  7. STAY on the OFFSHORE side of the whales when they are traveling close to shore.
  8. LIMIT your viewing time to a recommended maximum of 30 minutes. This will minimize the cumulative impact of many vessels and give consideration to other viewers.
  9. DO NOT swim with, touch or feed marine wildlife.
  10. DO NOT drive through groups of porpoises or dolphins to encourage bow or stern-riding.
  11. Should dolphins or porpoises choose to ride the bow wave of your vessel, avoid sudden course changes. Hold course and speed or reduce speed gradually.

Be Whale Wise – Follow these guidelines and local laws in the presence of marine wildlife.

be whale wiseSeeing killer whales and other marine wildlife in their natural environment can be a thrilling experience.  Sometimes it can be easy to forget that our presence has an effect on wildlife and their habitat. Just like us, marine animals 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 the animals unnecessary stress. In some cases, we may be threatening their lives. Set an example for others, and help protect our spectacular marine resources.

The global standard for whale viewing distances is 100 yards. At times, whales will surface close to boats if this happens shut down and let the boat quietly drift. This is by their own choice and when this occurs, simply let the animals pass by, waiting to start engines again or to move until they are at least 100 yards away.  New Regulations in 2011 for killer whales require that boaters stay 200 yards away & keep the path of the whales clear.  These new U.S. regulations apply to all vessels (with some exceptions) in inland waters of Washington.

Orcas, the large dolphins they are, are very curious, friendly, and playful whales. The southern resident orcas were recently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act thrusting them into the spotlight in the northwest, and around the world. There are many ongoing research projects being conducted to help preserve and protect the critical habitat for whales and other wildlife that call the Salish Sea home.

Remember when booking a whale watching trip to make sure your operator abides by these regulation.  If they do they will advertise this in their information.

whale festplanet whalePlanet Whale

Visit Planet whale for an ethical user review and rating system for the world’s whale and dolphin watch operators

Whale SENSE – the smart way to whale watch

whale advice 2The Northeastern United States is one of the most impressive whale watching destinations in the world, drawing over a million whale watchers each year.

Worldwide, whale watching is valued as a multi-billion dollar industry, supporting local communities, businesses, and conservation efforts.  Viewing some of the largest creatures on Earth feeding, socializing, and performing acrobatic feats can be an exhilarating experience. It can also promote respect for the ocean and its inhabitants, if conducted responsibly.

Large whales, and other marine mammals, are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Many of the popularly viewed whale species are also protected by the Endangered Species Act. These Acts help protect whales from harm, including having their natural behaviors interrupted by human actions.  Admiring marine mammals from a distance is the safest and most responsible way people can view them in their natural habitats.

NOAA Whale Watch Guidelines in the Northeast

  • Coordinate viewing times with other vessels
  • Slow your speed as you approach
  • Approach whales from the side or behind and parallel the animal’s course, speed and direction
  • Never approach within 100 feet of whales.  Federal regulations require vessels stay at least 500 yards (1,500 feet) away from the North Atlantic right whale
  • Limit the time spent with individual whales