Drone footage captures killer whales in motion near Horseshoe Bay
Canadian government still gathering advice on regulating drone interactions with wildlife
New drone footage shot over the long weekend near Horseshoe Bay captures an afternoon in the life of five killer whales.
Talin Wayrynen said he and his girlfriend were sitting on their deck Sunday afternoon when they spotted a dark fin cresting the water near a cluster of boats about 15 metres from the shore.
He grabbed his Phantom 4 Pro quadcopter, purchased just a few weeks ago and started filming.
"They swam right by the marina, so I got to just fly all around them, right by the marina, until they got just past the marina and then they disappeared," Wayrynen said.
The video, set to a goofy song, shows the five orcas — including a little one — leisurely swimming together and occasionally coming up to the surface to spout.
It's not uncommon to see killer whales in the area, but Wayrynen said it was unusual for them to come so close to shore.
How close is too close?
As drones become more popular with recreational users and photographers, the Canadian government has been grappling with drafting regulations to protect wildlife from harassment.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is still gathering expert advice on the interaction between marine mammals and drones, keeping a close eye on regulations in the U.S. In 2015, a drone operator received a fine of more than $1,000 for allegedly getting too close to a pod of orcas in Washington State.
In Canada, the fisheries department currently recommends that quadcopters stay at least 30 metres from whales and dolphins. That's also the guideline used by Vancouver Aquarium researchers when studying orcas from the air.
Boats, on the other hand, must stay at least 100 metres from marine mammals.
DFO spokesperson Lara Sloan pointed out that it could be possible to harass an animal from further than 30 metres away — but that doesn't appear to be happening in Wayrynen's video.
"The whales don't seem bothered, but you never know what's been edited out," she said.
For his part, Wayrynen said he wasn't particularly worried about disturbing the animals, but he tried to keep the drone a safe distance to protect his machinery.
" I didn't want to get too close to the water anyways because they spray up," he said.