British Columbia

Stay at least 100 metres away from whales: B.C. officials offer etiquette tips for summer recreation

As more people get out on the water and trails this summer, conservation officers and park managers are reminding boaters, kayakers and hikers about etiquette on and off the water.

'It is a really wonderful thing to see them up close, but it's not necessarily the best thing for the animals'

A pair of orcas swims close to shore in Juan de Fuca Strait off the B.C. coast. Conservation officers are asking people to give the whales some space. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

As more people get out on the water and trails this summer, conservation officers and park managers are reminding boaters, kayakers and hikers about etiquette on and off the water.

Out on the ocean, boaters are reminded to stay at least 100 metres away from any whales.

"It is a really wonderful thing to see them up close, but it's not necessarily the best thing for the animals," fisheries Conservation and Protection Officer Willi Jansen told CBC's On the Island.

Jansen said the rules about cetaceans vary a bit depending on location and circumstances.

For instance, for killer whales near Campbell River to Ucluelet, it's a 400-metre minimum approach distance, but 200 metres for killer whales outside that area and 100 metres for all other whales. 

"So for humpbacks and that sort of thing, that's a 100-metre minimum distance unless they have a calf, and then it doubles to 200 in all waters," Jansen said.

She said as a conservation officer with the whales unit, many people are unaware of the rules.

"I think a lot of it is common sense, and people get wrapped up in the moment. So we do a lot of education."

If a whale is within a kilometre, boaters must slow down to less than seven knots, and if the whale is any closer than that, boaters should put their engines in neutral, stop fishing and wait until the whale passes.

"I think there's a lot of people that still don't know or didn't see the whales," she said, "so becoming aware of your surroundings on the water and watching for whales are really important things."

Trail use etiquette

Off the water, the Capital Regional District says the number of people using Island trails and heading to regional parks for outdoor recreation has increased this year to more than five million visits.

"There's over 100 kilometres of regional trails available for use, and that's 24 hours a day and 365 days a year," Jeff Leahy, the senior manager of regional parks with the CRD, told CBC News.

He said the two regional trails that are becoming more popular are the Galloping Goose Trail in Victoria and Lochside Regional Trail which runs from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal to Victoria, B.C.

A cyclist rides an e-bike on the Galloping Goose Trail in Victoria on Oct. 12, 2021. The trail is becoming increasingly popular, according to the CRD. (Ken Mizokoshi/ CBC)

"Increased use across the whole regional park system is leading to a greater need for etiquette by all on these popular trails," he said.

He's reminding hikers and trail users to stay on the right side in a single file unless you want to pass someone and be kind to other hikers by nodding or waving. Most importantly, he said, dog owners not picking up after their dogs is one of the biggest complaints. 

"Just be respectful of the trails and of other users," he said.

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