British Columbia

B.C. whale watching guide fined $10K for getting too close to killer whale

A professional whale-watching guide in Campbell River has been fined $10,000 for illegally approaching a killer whale within 35 metres while touring a whale-watching group.

Tourists, other whale watching vessels saw incident and provided witness statements

A photo used as part of the evidence presented in court shows Nicklaus Templeman's boat approaching the whale. (Provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

A professional whale-watching guide in Campbell River has been fined $10,000 for illegally approaching a killer whale within 35 metres while touring a whale-watching group.

Nicklaus Templeman, the owner and operator of Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions, was found to be in violations under the Species At Risk and Federal Fisheries Acts in Campbell River Provincial Court in September 2021.

According to a statement from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on May 27, 2019, Templeman was observed approaching the killer whale, which was travelling with a pod, by two other whale watching guides near Willow Point, south of Campbell River.

Fishery officer Geoff Thorburn said the whale breached suddenly, prompting the other vessels to shut down immediately.

"That's the appropriate move to do when something like that happens," said Thorburn, adding that Templeman disclosed over the radio that he had seen the whale pod.

"He went up and around ahead of the whales and parked himself so that he would have an advantageous position for his clients, so that the whale would pass right in front of him. But in doing so, he got between the whales and the shore and that is their hunting grounds."

Commercial whale watching vessels and tourists in the area at the time provided witness statements, photos, and video evidence.

Marine Mammal Regulations state that vessels cannot approach marine mammals or attempt to trap them between a vessel and the shore or between a vessel and one or more other vessels.

Under DFO regulations updated in 2018, anyone approaching marine mammals must stay at least 100 metres away from most whales, dolphins and porpoises.

There is also a 200-metre minimum-approach distance for whales, dolphins and porpoises that are resting or accompanied by a calf, as well as a 200-metre minimum-approach distance for killer whales in the Pacific Ocean.

"It's for the safety of the animals. These animals are hunting and having boat noise and boats running around them is a distraction for them when they're using their sonar and hearing abilities to track their prey down," said Thorburn.

The fine paid by Templeman will be used for the conservation and protection of marine mammals in the waters off B.C.