Government advice for whale watching

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“March through April is the peak time for spotting humpback whales around Bermuda,” and officials urged the public to follow the guidelines, noting that “boaters should not approach closer than 100 yards” and that “the public is also strongly discouraged from swimming with the whales”. .”

A government spokesperson said: “March to April is the peak time for spotting humpback whales around Bermuda. As part of their journey from their breeding grounds in the Caribbean to their feeding grounds on the east coast of North America and as far north as Greenland and Iceland, whales swim through our waters.

“For the public, watching these majestic animals spring, leap or slowly swim with a calf is a thrilling experience, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR] would like to remind the public how to watch whales safely.

“To minimize disruption from whale watchers and ensure the safety of boaters while they watch whales, the DENR has developed guidelines for whale watching, which are available at https://environment.bm/ whale-watching-guidelines.

“The Department urges the public to familiarize themselves with these guidelines before whale watching. Concretely, boaters must not approach within 100 meters [or 300 feet] to any whale.

“Whales sometimes approach a boat on their own. If this happens, put your engine in neutral and let the animal[s] come to you. If a whale tries to leave the area where you are in a boat, do not chase it. The public is also strongly discouraged from swimming with the whales. As docile as it may seem, a whale could unintentionally strike a swimmer with the occasional tail or fin slap, causing serious injury or worse.

“These tails and fins are big and heavy! Also, boaters and swimmers may not intend to be intrusive, but getting too close to whales can disrupt feeding, nursing and migration behaviors. Boats, in particular, can cause unintended injury to a whale.

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“Boaters should also be aware of behaviors that indicate a whale is agitated or no longer interested in staying near a vessel. These may include:

  • Regular changes in direction of movement or swimming speed
  • Tail strokes or trumpet strokes
  • Repetitive diving
  • Early dives
  • Changes in breathing habits
  • Increase in time spent diving compared to time spent on the surface
  • Changes in vocalization behavior

“Under the Protected Species Act 2003 it is an offense to harm, disturb or harass a humpback or sperm whale. A person who commits such an offense is liable to a fine of $25,000 or two years in prison on summary conviction. If you see a boat harassing a whale, do not hesitate to contact the fishery guardians at 535-4615 or the Coast Guard Operations Center at 294-0610. If you have a camera, please take photos or video recordings of the harassment, including the boat’s name and registration number. Send this evidence to environment@gov.bm.

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