VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C- Canada is strengthening its rules on interacting with marine mammals.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) published the fully amended Marine Mammal Regulations for the first time today.  

The new rules, which are officially in effect, will provide a minimum approach distance of 100 metres for most whales, dolphins and porpoises. Their aim is to legally protect these animals from human disturbances.

According to a press release on the Government of Canada’s website, marine mammals face a variety of threats.

These threats are particularly challenging for endangered whale populations, notably the Southern Resident killer whale, the North Atlantic right whale and the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga.

The amended regulations clarify what it means to disturb a marine mammal, they include feeding, swimming or interacting with it; moving it (or enticing/causing it to move); separating a marine mammal from its group or going between it and a calf; trapping marine mammals between a vessel and the shore, or between boats; as well as tagging or marking it.

Before the changes, voluntary guidelines existed, but they were not enforceable. Under the new amendments, anyone who is caught breaking the rules can be charged with an offence under the Fisheries Act.

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said finalizing the rules was a step in the right direction

“Our government is committed to protecting our oceans and the marine mammals that call our oceans home,” he said.  

“These stronger rules will help to ensure our whales and marine mammals can still be enjoyed, but at a safe distance. Finalizing these regulations is just another concrete measure that our government is taking to make sure that our marine life is protected for future generations,” added LeBlanc.

For a link to the full set of amendments, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/fisheries-oceans/news/2018/07/canada-strengthens-protections-for-marine-mammals-with-updated-regulations-for-whale-watching-and-approaching-marine-mammals.html