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Vancouver Aquarium to long weekend boaters: Avoid killer whales

By Marcus Hondro     May 17, 2015 in Environment
The Vancouver Aquarium issued a warning to long-weekend boaters to steer clear of the orca killer whales spotted in waters near Nanaimo. Porpoises and dolphins were also seen in coastal waters near communities.
Boaters urged caution
The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, a conservation and research program operated by the Vancouver Aquarium, has received multiple reports the past two days of members of a pod of killer whales in the waters near Nanaimo; there is a likelihood they will remain in the area over the long weekend.
Boaters can, and have in the past, accidentally hit whales. Often there is a desire on the part of boaters to get closer to the massive mammals and not only can things go wrong and an accident occur, but it's stressful for whales. Further, moving toward them prevents them from engaging in their natural behaviour.
"Unfortunately, when we get too close, approach too quickly, or make too much noise, we may disrupt the whales and interfere with foraging, resting and socializing," Tessa Danelesko of the Network told media. "Boats can also directly injure cetaceans through collisions."
Here are 4 of the tips Fisheries and Oceans Canada has for encounters with cetaceans:
1) BE CAUTIOUS and COURTEOUS: approach areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity with extreme caution. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure.
2) SLOW DOWN: reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 metres/yards of the nearest whale. Avoid abrupt course changes.
3) KEEP CLEAR of the whales’ path. If whales are approaching you, cautiously move out of the way.
4) DO NOT approach whales from the front or from behind. Always approach and depart from the side, moving in a direction parallel to the direction of the whales.
Orca pods in northwest waters
The coasts of B.C. and Washington state are known for orcas and three pods live in these waters totaling 80 whales, J pod, K pod and L pod. They mostly survive on Chinook salmon, with Chum, Coho and sea lions also a part of their diet.
They live and travel in the Salish Sea, an area that includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Georgia, and Puget Sound, along with connecting waters and the waters surrounding B.C.'s Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands of Washington State. There can be a dearth of salmon in these waters and in recent years some members are believed to have starved to death.
The whales in the area are considered endangered and along with a dearth of food their numbers are being reduced by pollution and contaminants in the water and the effects of vessels traveling through their area. However, of late three calves have been born to two of the pods.
The Aquarium also urges the public not to touch or feed marine life.
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