This submitted photo shows Paul Cottrell, wearing the red jacket, helping to disentangle a humpback whale.

Humpback whale safety campaign launched as population booms on B.C. coast

‘See a blow? Go slow!’ campaign aimed at protecting boaters and whales

‘See a blow? Go slow!’

That’s the slogan behind an educational campaign developed by the Marine Education and Research Society to prevent potentially catastrophic collisions by boosting boater awareness of the whales surrounding them.

MERS’ education and communications coordinator Jackie Hildering told the Westerly News that B.C.’s once dwindling humpback whale population is surging on the West Coast—rising from seven individuals in 2003 to 86 in 2018—creating a hazardous minefield in local waters.

“I am extraordinarily privileged in having seen the increase of humpbacks on our coast but, with that comes the reality that humpbacks are a game-changer for boaters on our coast and as brilliant as it is that they are back as they are, there is not the public awareness around what it means to have humpbacks back in our waters,” she said.

“In an ideal world we would be able to set up the equivalent of ‘elk crossing’ signs, but that’s very difficult with a marine species.”

She added that humpbacks move differently than the orcas and grey whales that boaters are used to and that collisions can have serious impacts, citing a recent incident where a boater was paralyzed after a crash with a humpback.

“They are, of course, huge and they do not have biosonar as do toothed whales like orca. They are extremely acrobatic and they are most often not going in one direction. Boaters have to be alert on our coast to the fact that they could pop up almost anywhere,” she said.

“It is like running a gauntlet now in many areas of our coast where you have to be vigilant all the time. One would assume that boaters would be like that, but we have found out that this is not the case and that they criss-cross as if nothing would suddenly surface…There’s such a lack of awareness about the number of humpbacks back on our coast that boaters are putting themselves at risk.”

Hildering was speaking from Tofino’s Fourth Street Dock. She was there for the installation of a new educational sign promoting safe boating. MERS has helped install roughly 130 such signs and hopes to have one installed at every dock, harbour and boat ramp on Vancouver Island.

The signs are supplemented by online resources available at www.seeablowgoslow.org.

Hildering added the campaign also includes information around what boaters should do if they come upon an entangled whale.

“We’re desperately trying to educate people that most often if you cut lines at the surface you are cursing the whale because the whale could still be entangled under the surface,” she said.

“Our research, looking at scars on the whales, is that 50 per cent of the humpbacks in B.C. waters have been entangled at some point…This is a huge eye opener about how serious a threat this actually is and of course that’s not capturing how many of them become entangled, die and sink to the bottom of the ocean.”

READ MORE: DFO declares Swiftsure and LaPerouse Banks critical habitats for killer whales

READ MORE: Humpback whale that washed up near Ucluelet had broken jaw

READ MORE: Sea lion shot in Ucluelet euthanized at Vancouver Aquarium



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

From left, Nicole Doe and Jackie Hildering of the Marine Education and Research Society and Michelle Segal of the Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society smile next to a new sign warning boaters to be on the look out for whales while boating. The sign also includes information around entanglements and how to report incidents to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Just Posted

Soul Shakers kick off free outdoor concerts in Oak Bay

Music fills the air at Willows Beach Park for series of concerts this summer

Saanich farm hosts birthday party as wetland turns 10

The Urban Biodiversity Enhancement and Restoration Project invites community to 10th birthday for wetland

Last remaining Victoria Legion faces $100,000 property tax bill

The Trafalgar/ Pro Patria Branch can’t afford to operate with such high taxes

Sunset Cinema brings free family film under the stars in Colwood

Sunset Cinema hosts events on the Island from July 23 to 27

Downtown Victoria sees 10-fold increase in condo units since 2016

A report by the Downtown Victoria Business Association details ongoing construction trends

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques returns to Earth, sets Canadian space record

Native of Saint-Lambert, Que., set a record for longest single spaceflight by a Canadian at 204 days

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Pedestrian struck by vehicle in Stz’uminus dies from injuries

A male pedestrian was struck in the early morning of June 25

Thieves steal two $40K chairs featuring gold serpents from Vancouver furniture store

Chairs believed to be the only two of its kind in Canada, police said

Poll: Rising gas prices force B.C. residents rethink summer road trips

63 per cent of respondents reported gas prices are impacting their day-to-day finances

PHOTO: Moose cow and calf relax in Williams Lake flower garden

The homeowners got a surprise when they checked their most recent surveillance footage

Two in hospital after plane crashes in Okanagan Lake

RCMP say wheels left down caused landing plane to overturn on lake

Most Read