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Whale Stewardship Project

P.O. Box 36101

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Canada   B3J 3S9

1-902-889-2679

Email: wsp@eastlink.ca

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Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations were amended to provide greater protection for whales. The law now requires a minimum distance of 100 meters from any whale (up to 400 m for at-risk whales.) Please visit the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Watching marine wildlife webpage for more details.


Every year a few beluga whales become separated from their pod and visit locations outside their normal range. When isolated from a family group, these highly social animals are vulnerable to multiple threats. Young belugas in particular, are naturally curious and are known to actively seek out boats and people. As interaction increases, so too, do injuries to the whales. It is up to us to minimize contact to support their best chances for survival so that they may rejoin a pod of belugas and return to normal beluga life.


These guidelines are designed to help you safely navigate the unique challenges posed by sociable belugas, to enjoy them from a distance and avoid causing unlawful disturbance, stress or injury to these beautiful whales.


  1.     Choose land-based over boat-based whale-watching whenever possible and enjoy observing whichever activities a whale is engaged in such as foraging, resting, socializing or playing on his own.


  1.     Stray belugas are often seen surfacing in a favoured “rest spot” or “home base” sometimes marked by a buoy, moored boat or navigation marker. Respect these vital areas and give the whales their space.


  1.     When boating, slow to no-wake in the area inhabited by the whale and avoid making any abrupt changes in speed or direction. Stop to view the whale only after reaching and maintaining the mandatory100 m minimum distance from the whale. If safe to do so, turn your motor off and drift.


  1.     Never use motors or other sounds to deliberately attract a whale. Belugas are acoustic animals who show a strong attraction to boat motors. Sociable belugas are often severely injured – occasionally an injury is fatal.


  1.     A stray beluga may choose to visit a narrow, shallow or confined waterway of under 100 m. Special care is needed in traversing such areas with no more than two boats operating within 50 meters of the whale at a time.


  1.     Be aware of the collective impact on the whale and show courtesy to other whale watchers by limiting the number of visits and length of time around the whale to about 15 minutes in a single visit.


  1.     Do not pursue, herd or chase the whale with any type of vessel.


  1.     If a beluga approaches and is close to you, resist the temptation to reach out to touch or grab him and never place hands or feet in the whale’s mouth or on his blowhole.


  1.     Do not offer any objects as “toys” or use them to attract a beluga (e.g. hoses, mop, float, rope, paddle).


  1.     Refrain from throwing stones, sand or other objects into the water in the vicinity of the whale. He may surface unexpectedly and the object can cause injury.


  1.     Swimming or diving with whales is not permissible by law. For your safety, especially do not enter the water in the vicinity of a beluga, in strong currents, boat navigation areas or near wharves.


  1.     Never attempt to feed a wild whale. His survival depends on maintaining his ability to capture fresh, live food.


  1.     Have realistic expectations. Enjoy the privilege of viewing wild, free-ranging whales from a distance.


Thank you for your cooperation – together we can help belugas and all whales survive and thrive!

These guidelines were originally developed by the Whale Stewardship Project with the approval of Fisheries and

Oceans Canada and have been updated to reflect the 2018 Marine Mammal Regulations of the Fisheries Act.

GUIDELINES FOR OBSERVING STRAY, SOLITARY & SOCIABLE BELUGA WHALES