British Columbia

B.C. guide handed 1st fine under new whale-protection regulations after sailing too close to humpback

The federal government says the first conviction under new regulations meant to protect whales from being disturbed by people has resulted in a fine for a guide in British Columbia.

Breaching whale 'almost landed on his boat,' undercover DFO officer says

A humpback whale breaches in B.C. waters on Sept. 17, 2013. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The federal government says the first conviction under new regulations meant to protect whales from being disturbed by people has resulted in a fine for a guide in British Columbia.

A provincial court judge found Scott Babcock guilty in August of a violation under the Marine Mammal Regulations, according to a statement from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on Wednesday.

The statement said Babcock was fined $2,000. He also did two days of community service educating the public on boater safety near whales.

The department said the sentence related to an incident on July 19, 2018, when humpback whales were approached at a distance of less than 100 metres in the Work Channel, north of Prince Rupert, B.C.

'We want to set a deterrent'

DFO officer Darla Farrington was working undercover at the time and saw Babcock's boat heading toward the whales at high speed.

"There were two whales, and they were putting on the most beautiful display, breaching out of the water ... the whale jumped right out of the water and almost landed on his [Babcock's] boat," Farrington told CBC News on Wednesday.

"This conviction is really important because we want to set a deterrent," the officer added. "The last thing you want to do is hit a whale."

Under the regulations, 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. People are required to stay 400 metres away from southern resident killer whales, which are endangered.

With files from CBC's Betsy Trumpener

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