Code of Ethics for Whale Watch Tour Operators

Whale watching activities directed toward right whales have been popular in the Bay of Fundy since 1981. However, little is known about the effect of whale watching on the species' recovery: a precautionary approach is recommended. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is charged under the Marine Mammal Regulations of the Fisheries Act to regulate whale-watching activities in Canada (these are currently under review). Vessels can approach right whales for the purpose of whale watching, but they are strictly forbidden to hunt or harass them. The ability to watch right whales in Canadian waters is in stark contrast to the United States where no vessel is allowed within 457 m (500 yards), except for research under a scientific permit.

Whale watching is a popular and important
economic activity in the Bay of Fundy
Beginning in 1997, marine tour operators in the Bay of Fundy were encouraged to sign on to a Code of Ethics introduced by a non-profit group in Nova Scotia with the goal of minimizing any impact from whale watching on marine mammals, including right whales. Compliance with the Code of Ethics is recommended and voluntary but most companies (particularly those watching right and humpback whales) have agreed to follow it. Some of the guidelines proposed in the Code suggest staying near the whales for no longer than 30 minutes, limiting the number of vessels watching any particular whale and not approaching more closely than 100 m. However, whale watch vessels may end up very close to whales if the whales choose to approach them. For several years a pamphlet was distributed to clients on whale watch boats so they could be aware of the Code and have realistic expectations of their whale watch experience. Tour operators are also encouraged to display the Code on their vessels.

Regulations for marine activities have been implemented in the Saguenay - St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec, an area known for its great diversity of marine mammals such as blue, fin, humpback and beluga whales, and where right whales have occasionally been sighted. Within the boundaries of the Marine Park all vessels must stay at least 400 m away from any endangered marine mammal species including North Atlantic right whales.

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