Keep at least 100 metres away from belugas or face fine, says DFO
Increased protection for the marine mammals to begin on Wednesday
Those wanting to get a closer look at the beluga whales visiting Ingonish, N.S., will need to keep back at least 100 metres.
Beginning Wednesday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will enforce increased protective measures for marine mammals.
Those in violation of the new rules could be fined. The government released more details on how enforcement would work Wednesday.
"There's going to be an education component to the way these roll out and we'll have to deal with any kind of breaking of these rules on a case-by-case basis," Corey Webster, a DFO program co-ordinator in the Maritime region, told CBC's Mainstreet on Tuesday.
Webster said it is coincidental that the increased protective measures, which are an amendment to marine mammal regulations established within the federal Fisheries Act, are coming as two beluga whales visiting Nova Scotia are gaining a big following on social media.
The two whales have delighted paddleboarders and boaters for more than week. There are videos of the whales from above the water in a drone and under the water.
Increased protections for safety
Webster said increased protections are needed for marine mammals like whales, dolphins and porpoises.
He said it is about safety for the animals and for people. He said the rules coming into effect apply to everyone on the water.
"Marine mammals are wild animals so there's no way to know how they're going to react and you really don't want to have a negative effect [in how] they interact with humans, especially with belugas," he said. "They're a social creature.
"In these sorts of situations, when there's lots of people interacting with them, they tend to get used to it and that could put the whale in danger.
"Because if they're so used to being approached by vessels ... as the vessel manoeuvres around or anything like that they could in advertently hit it."
More education coming
If a marine mammal approaches a person, Webster said the best thing to do is be cautious and create distance.
"It's not only for our well-being but for the mammal's well-being as well," he said.
He said fisheries officers will be visiting areas where marine mammals visit to further educate the public on the increased protective measures and new enforcement.
Highland Adventures in Ingonish have offered people the chance to see the belugas on paddleboards.
Tom Terrell, co-owner of the tour business, said the plan is to follow DFO's rules.
"It's our priority to put conservation and marine wildlife protection ahead of giving people the opportunity to see the whales," he said. "We have all sorts of beautiful country up here to paddleboard in and if the whales don't want to be bothered, we'll leave them alone."
With files from CBC Radio's Mainstreet