The court ruling follows an incident in May 2019. Environmental groups recently called on DFO to step up patrols, prosecutions and penalties for whale-watching operators who ‘regularly violate’ buffer zones legally. established for threatened killer whales.
A whale-watching guide from Campbell River, British Columbia, has been fined $10,000 in provincial court after a judge found the man knowingly violated legal buffer zones set in place. place to protect endangered killer whales, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The decision, issued September 13 but released today, stems from an incident on May 27, 2019, when Nicklaus Templeman, owner and operator of Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions, allegedly came within 35 meters of a killer whale off Willow Point. on Vancouver Island.
According to a Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokesperson, Templeman communicated via VHF radio with half a dozen nearby whale-watching boats, acknowledging the presence of the pod.
“However, he continued to travel in their direction and positioned his vessel to ensure the whales should pass him nearby,” DFO spokesperson Leri Davies wrote in a news release.
Other whale-watching guides reported the incident to DFO’s Observe, Record, Reporting line, according to Davies.
According to court records, Judge Ronald Lamperson found Templeman guilty of two Species at Risk Act offenses related to the unlawful harassment of an endangered species, and one count of a federal Fisheries Act violation. He was ordered to pay a fine of $5,000 for the violation of each act.
The ruling requires Templeman’s fines be used to protect marine mammals off the coast of British Columbia, Davies said.
The sentencing comes two weeks after five environmental groups called on DFO and other law enforcement agencies to step up patrols, prosecutions and penalties to deter further violations. In their call to action, the groups cited a report by marine mammal monitoring group, Straitwatch, which documented whale-watching operators “systematically violating” legally established buffer zones between their vessels and whales.
Between 2020 and 2021, Transport Canada imposed five monetary penalties totaling $24,750.
“There are numerous ongoing investigations that could result in additional administrative monetary penalties,” Transport Canada spokesperson Sau Sau Liu told Glacier media last week.
But the pursuit of these violations has resulted in few convictions.
In the summer of 2019, a judge in Prince Rupert ordered a whaler guide to pay a $2,000 fine for coming within 100 meters of a humpback whale. The fine represented the first conviction under the new Marine Mammal Regulations.
Across Canada, it is illegal to feed, touch, swim or otherwise interact with a marine mammal. Tagging or marking an animal, moving it or encouraging it to move is also illegal.
Anyone who witnesses such violations or finds a marine mammal in distress or dead is encouraged to report it to DFO’s Observe, Record and Report line at 1-800-465-4336 or by email at DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@ dfo-mpo.gc.ca.