Local First Nations and researchers are expressing concern after another humpback whale was apparently hit off the coast of British Columbia. BC Ferries, which operates in the area, has reported two incidents in the past month where their vessels may have made contact with whales. Other large vessels, including a catamaran ferry and a cruise ship, have also been involved in collisions with humpbacks. Researchers have been made aware of a total of approximately 10 whale strikes in the last two months. The Gitga’at First Nation, whose territory is where the BC Ferries incidents occurred, is calling for measures to be implemented to prevent further deaths.
The incidents highlight the need for change in the waters to protect whales. The Inside Passage, where the strikes occurred, is an area where humpbacks come to feed. Researchers and First Nations are advocating for slower speeds for vessels and the implementation of shipping guidelines in the waterways. Gitga’at is working with the shipping industry to develop these guidelines as shipping traffic in the area is expected to increase. Researchers believe that with the information they have about the whales’ movement patterns, collisions could be avoided. They are calling on big corporations like BC Ferries to lead the way in implementing these changes.
BC Ferries has stated that they will collaborate with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and researchers to improve monitoring and detection using new technology. Federal law requires all collisions and entanglements with humpback whales to be reported to the DFO. Tips for avoiding collisions with whales include watching for blows and birds on the water as signs of feeding, going slow in areas known for whales, and using the Whale Report Alert System app to signal the presence of whales to commercial vessels.