In August 2019, in Prince Rupert Provincial Court, the Honourable Judge George Leven found fishing guide Scott Babcock guilty of a violation under the Marine Mammal Regulations.
Justice Leven ordered Babcock to pay a fine of $2,000. Babcock also did two days of community service in educating the public on boater safety around whales.
The sentence relates to the disturbance of marine mammals that occurred on July 19, 2018 when Babcock approached a Humpback Whale at a distance of less than 100 metres in the Work Channel, 50 kilometres north of Prince Rupert.
This is the first conviction under the amended Marine Mammal Regulations as part of the modernised Fisheries Act. The new regulations significantly strengthen protections for marine mammals.
The illegal activity was observed by DFO Conservation and Protection fishery officers on patrol in an unmarked vessel.
The rules for whale watching and approaching marine mammals provide a minimum approach distance of 100 metres (m) for most whales, dolphins and porpoises, a 200m minimum approach distance for whales, dolphins, and porpoises that are resting or accompanied by a calf, and a 200m maximum approach distance for all Killer Whales in Pacific Canadian waters.
The minimum approach distances help to legally protect these animals from human disturbances.
Approaching marine mammals too quickly, coming too close or making too much noise can disturb, stress or even harm them. If you see tail, fin or spray, stay far enough away.
In Canada, the North Pacific Humpback Whale population was listed as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2005.
The population was re-assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as Special Concern in 2011 and was subsequently legally listed as Special Concern under SARA in 2017. Humpback Whales are also protected by the Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act.
As required under SARA for all threatened and endangered species, a recovery strategy for the North Pacific Humpback Whale was completed in 2013. As Humpbacks are now listed as Special Concern under SARA, a SARA Management Plan for the North Pacific Humpback Whale in Canada will be developed for this population.
As part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s work to end illegal activity, the department asks the public for information on activities of this nature or any contravention of the Fisheries Act and regulations.
Anyone with information can call the toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or email the details to DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca