Reminder for safe whale watching – The Royal Gazette

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Created: March 08, 2022 07:23

A humpback whale bursts off the South Shore (File photo)

A guide on how to watch whales safely has been published by the Department of the Environment.

The set of guidelines was designed to ensure public safety and minimize disturbance to whales.

Officials said March and April were the peak months for spotting humpback whales as they traveled from breeding grounds in the Caribbean to feeding grounds on the east coast of North America and as far away as Greenland. and in Iceland.

A department spokesperson said: ‘Watching these majestic animals spring, pierce or slowly swim with a calf is an exciting experience and the department wants to remind the public of safe whale watching.’

But he warned that boats should not approach whales more than 100 meters or 300 feet and, if a whale approaches a boat, the engine should be put into neutral.

He added that when a whale leaves, boat captains should not be tempted to chase it away.

The spokesperson said: “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 their feeding, nursing and migration behavior.

“Boats, in particular, can cause unintended injury to a whale.”

Behavior that shows a whale can be restless

Regular changes in direction or 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

Vocalization changes

It is an offense to injure, disturb or harass a humpback or sperm whale and offenders can be fined up to $25,000 or sentenced to two years in prison.

The spokesperson said reports of people injuring or harassing a whale should be directed to the Department of Fisheries Wardens at 535-4615 or the Coast Guard Operations Center at 294-0610.

He added that witnesses should take photos or video footage of the offenses if possible and note the name and registration number of the boat.

Evidence can be emailed to environment@gov.bm.

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