Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Whale Watch Body Wants Closer Access to Other Orcas as Feds Set 200-Metre Limit

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Whale Watch Body Wants Closer Access to Other Orcas as Feds Set 200-Metre Limit

Article excerpt

Whale watching group says 200-metre limit too far

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VICTORIA - A West Coast whale watching collective is demanding closer access for its members to more abundant killer whale populations after the federal government imposed a 200-metre viewing distance limit to protect the endangered southern resident orcas.

However, whale scientists say the 200-metre limit still may not be enough distance to help the whales that are up against the threats of pollution, noise and lack of food.

Last month, the federal government moved on three fronts to protect the endangered southern resident whales, whose population hovers around 75.

It cut the Chinook salmon fishery by up to 35 per cent in key areas where the whales hunt their primary food source. The government also increased pollution-impact research on the whales and their prey, and made it mandatory for all marine vessels, including whale watching boats, to stay 200 metres away from killer whales, starting July 11.

A letter sent last month from the Pacific Whale Watch Association to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers of fisheries, transportation and environment, commended the government for recognizing the dangers to the southern resident population, while noting there are other types of killer whales in the area.

"Since we are in the education business and teaching our customers about the entire marine eco system, we need to be able to share the experience in reasonable proximity. Viewing from 100 metres is a globally accepted distance to view marine mammals."

Association president Alan McGillivray said whale watching operations voluntarily imposed a 200-metre viewing limit on southern residents last year and slowed their vessels in known whale areas to cut noise.

But he said the group, which represents more than 30 members in both Canada and the United States, wants the current 100-metre viewing distance to remain for the up to 850 transient, northern and offshore killer whales that are also present in West Coast waters. …

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