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B.C. man fined $12K for sailing and diving too close to orcas: DFO

A photo of the vessel near the orcas is shown. (DFO) A photo of the vessel near the orcas is shown. (DFO)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) says a B.C. man was recently fined $12,000 for getting too close to orcas, the largest fine of this type to ever be handed out in Canada.

Commercial diver Thomas Gould was in the area when a pod of seven Northern Resident Killer Whales swam by Prince Rupert, B.C., on April 25, 2020.

The DFO says Gould was seen sailing in front of the pod multiple times in a technique called "leap-frogging."

Twice that day, he also put on full diving gear and entered the water while the orcas were near, according to the DFO.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it's illegal to dive, swim, or otherwise interact with marine mammals in Canada.

Vessels must also stay away from large sea animals, like whales and dolphins, at all times.

In southern B.C. near Vancouver Island, vessels must keep 400 metres away from killer whales. North of Ucluelet, B.C., vessels must stay at least 200 metres away.

"The killer whale pod identified in this incident has been returning to the Prince Rupert area every spring for over a decade," said DFO in a release Monday.

"Signage is posted in the area to aid boaters in determining the mandatory approach distances."

Gould was ultimately fined $12,000 by a judge in Prince Rupert Provincial Court for breaching section 7 of the Marine Mammal Regulations, which bans any activity that would "disturb a marine mammal."

The DFO is reminding sailors that vessels can disrupt normal orca behavior if the boats get too close to the animal, and that engine noise and speed can disturb or even injure orcas.

The DFO says that this particular incident was called in to the Observe, Record, Report hotline, which helped lead to the fine.

Residents are encouraged to call the hotline at 1-800-465-4336 if they spot any marine mammals in distress, whether that be injuries, entanglements or harassment from humans.

Residents can also call the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Mammal Desk at 1-833-339-1020 or the CCG marine traffic radio to make reports. 


A previous version of this story stated that Gould was fined by the DFO. In fact, his fine was ordered by a judge in Prince Rupert Provincial Court. Top Stories

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