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) and marine mammal regulations should be followed as closely as possible unless at any time they restrict compliance with the collision regulations or human safety.

  1. Do not approach or position your vessel closer than 200 metres/yards to any killer whale. Do not approach or get closer than 100 metres/yards to any other marine mammal.
  2. Be cautious, courteous and quiet when around areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity, in the water or at haul-outs and bird colonies on land. Especially from May to September during breeding, nesting and seal pupping seasons.
  3. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure from viewing wildlife.
  4. Slow down: reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 metres/yards of the nearest marine mammal and reduce your engine’s noise and vessel’s wake.
  5. Always approach and depart from the side, moving parallel to their direction of the animal’s travel. If the animal(s) are approaching you, cautiously move out of the way and avoid abrupt course changes. Do not approach from the front or from behind.
  6. If your vessel is not in compliance with the approach distance guidelines (#1), place engine in neutral and allow animals to pass.
  7. Pay attention and move away, slowly and cautiously at the first sign of disturbance or agitation from any animal.
  8. Stay on the offshore side of the whales when traveling close to shore.
  9. Always avoid going through groups of porpoises or dolphins and hold course and reduce speed gradually to discourage bow or stern-riding.
  10. Limit your viewing time to 30 minutes or less. This will reduce the cumulative impact of all vessels and give consideration to other viewers.
  11. Do not disturb, swim with, move, feed or touch any marine wildlife. If you are concerned about a potentially sick, stranded animal, or entangled animal, contact your local stranding network.

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. Follow Transport Canada regulations when flying a drone 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.