Conservationists are warning boaters to be whale aware after a humpback was photographed with a severe injury on Howe Sound on Monday.
The whale was originally spotted on the Sound on April 6, but was photographed on May 14 with an injury.
“It appears the whale has been hit by a boat,” said Jackie Hildering, education director at the Marine Education and Research Society.
Hildering said the increase of humpback whales in B.C. is positive, but it also poses risks to both boaters and the whales. Both people and whales can be seriously injured in the event of a collision.
“They behave very differently than the killer whales most boaters are used to,” said Hildering.
“They are far bigger, highly acrobatic and more unpredictable. They are often travelling in random patterns and can suddenly surface after long dives.”
To avoid potentially deadly encounters, the Marine Education and Research Society is cautioning boaters to “See a Blow, Go Slow.”
Boaters should be constantly on the lookout for blows, whale watch flags on other vessels, or look for large groups of birds on the surface water which could indicate feeding conditions.
If a whale is suspected nearby, Hildering said vessels should slow down to no more than seven knots, avoid busy feeding areas and not approach whales. If the whale surfaces within 200 metres, the engine should be placed in neutral or shut off.
Those who experience or witness a collision or other incident of concern such as entanglement or disturbance should call the DFO Incident Reporting Line at 1-800-465-4336.