The vessel operators and naturalists of NIMMSA member companies are required to be professionally trained and experienced in identifying marine species, their behaviours and movement patterns. This knowledge shall be applied when viewing marine life and guide adherence to this code of conduct. Where a situation has not been addressed in this code of conduct it should be the intention of NIMMSA members to conduct business in a manner respectful of wildlife, wildlife viewers and other mariners.

Viewing Conduct

In order to be in compliance with Canadian law, the Be Whale Wise cetacean viewing guidelines (listed below) should be followed as closely as possible unless at any time they restrict compliance with the collision regulations or human safety.

  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.
  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

Regionally Specific Viewing Conduct for Northern Vancouver Island

Additional regionally specific guidelines have been developed to ensure that the health of marine wildlife off northern Vancouver Island is not impeded by NIMMSA member vessel operations and that interactions between personnel are courteous. In addition to complying with the Be Whale Guidelines, NIMMSA member company vessel operators and naturalists are also expected to follow these guidelines when viewing marine life off northern Vancouver Island.

  1. Shut off engines to reduce underwater noise and exhaust emissions whenever possible, especially when within 400 metres of whales.
  2. Keep a distance of at least 200 metres if any whale shows signs of trauma, stress, labour, unfamiliar behavior, habituation towards people or vessels, or the need for extra space.
  3. Do not transit through the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve at any time or go ashore on Vancouver Island within the boundaries of the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve.
  4. Shut off sonar, depth sounders, fish finders and other underwater transducers whenever possible when whales are foraging and when other vessels are using their hydrophones.
  5. Refrain from using PA systems when viewing marine mammals closer than 200 metres.
  6. Monitor marine VHF radio channel 07A (07 in the USA mode or 156.350 MHz) when engaged in viewing whales and when within the general vicinity of whales.
  7. Keep radio transmissions friendly and brief.
  8. Share sightings information with other NIMMSA members and local researchers when it is helpful to do so.
  9. Pass on the outside of any other vessel viewing whales whenever practical.
  10. Reduce engine and transducer noise when in the vicinity of killer whales near fixed hydrophone stations whenever possible.
  11. Do not block shore based whale observations or viewing taking place from other vessels whenever possible.
  12. Fly the whale watch flag if possible, whenever viewing whales within 400 metres.
  13. Do not fly a drone within 100 metres of marine mammals and limit drone use when it has the potential to impact other viewers.

Marketing and Social Media Guidelines

As stewards, it is important NIMMSA members set realistic marine mammal viewing expectations and educate others on best marine mammal viewing practices. To help achieve this NIMMSA members are expected to follow the below marketing and social media guidelines.

  1. Only use images or video in marketing material and on social media that reflects responsible marine mammal viewing in line with this Code of Conduct.
  2. Educate clients on the importance of responsible marine mammal viewing and encourage them to only post images or video to social media that reflect operations in line with this Code of Conduct.