Wildlife-watching tours safe despite incidents, official says
2 injured, 28 abandoned ship when bear-watching boat struck a rock in 2016
The wildlife- and whale-watching industry is safe despite three incidents resulting in deaths and injuries in less than two years, according to a Transportation Safety Board manager.
Mohan Raman, manager of regional operations for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, was speaking with On the Island's Khalil Akhtar about the latest TSB report on a bear-watching tour boat that ran aground.
The Stellar Sea hit a rock that was a known hazard off the west coast of Vancouver Island on Oct. 1, 2016.
Two people suffered minor injuries from falls and all 26 passengers and two crew members were forced to abandon the vessel.
"It was basically that it was insufficient planning and there was no lookout posted," Raman said.
To do it correctly, he said, "you go to see exactly what hazards you encounter on the way to this particular place, and that's the kind of passage planning and looking out for hazards."
Overall, Raman said, there are few concerns and few serious incidents in the wildlife-watching industry.
The Stellar Sea, which was owned by Jamie's Whaling Station of Tofino, went aground less than a year after the capsizing of the Leviathan II, a whale-watching boat operated by the same company. Six people died in that incident.
In a third incident near Victoria in August 2017, two people were injured when a Zodiac vessel operated by Prince of Whales Whale Watching struck a humpback that surfaced without warning in front of the vessel.
Raman said the whale strike was "no fault of anyone."
"Overall I think it's pretty much safe, the industry" he said. "I don't see any issues there."
Raman said Transport Canada has not yet taken significant action on one of the key recommendations from the June 2017 TSB report on the Leviathan II sinking.
The report urged that passenger vessel operators across Canada be required to adopt risk-management processes to identify hazards and the strategies to deal with them.