Skipper of whale watch boat fined, suspended

The following is the text of a news release from the Government of Canada:

(CAMPBELL RIVER, British Columbia) (March 3) — On Thursday, January 30, 2014, in Campbell River Provincial Court, Jason Allan Smith was found guilty of disturbing killer whales in violation of the Fisheries Act. Justice Roderick J. Sutton fined the commercial whale watching skipper $6,000 and prohibited him from engaging in the whale watching industry for 10 years.

The charges against Mr. Smith arose from an incident on August 14, 2010, near Camp Point, north of Campbell River. At the time, Mr. Smith was operating a commercial whale watching boat for Eagle Eye Adventures and was observed approaching a group of killer whales. Mr. Smith kept the boat within a close distance of the whales for an extended period of time, contrary to the long-established whale watching guidelines in Canada, which state a minimum distance of 100 metres should be maintained between vessels and orcas.

Quick facts
    •    The Fisheries Act, Marine Mammal Regulations specifically prohibit any disturbance of marine mammals.
    •    There is substantial scientific evidence that the close proximity of vessels to killer whales has the potential to disturb or disrupt their normal behavior. Such disturbances, if repeated and persistent, have the potential to cause long-term harm to the population.
    •    The Be Whale Wise guidelines are designed to help the public enjoy marine wildlife encounters while reducing the risk of disturbing the mammals.
    •    British Columbia’s two resident killer whale populations are listed as endangered (southern residents) and threatened (northern residents) under the Species At Risk Act. The Resident Killer Whale Recovery Strategy identifies physical and acoustic vessel disturbance as a potential threat to their recovery.
    •    This is the second time that Mr. Smith has been convicted of disturbing killer whales; he was found guilty in 2011 for a similar incident from 2008.

The Government of Canada is committed to safeguarding the long-term health and productivity of Canada’s fisheries resources, and the habitat that supports them, for generations to come. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act. It ensures and promotes compliance with the Act and other laws and regulations through a combination of land, air, and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities. 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.

By Professional Mariner Staff