Watch out for humpbacks, whale groups warn boaters

Posters are going up at Vancouver Island marinas in areas where humpbacks have been spotted in an effort to avoid whale-boat collisions.

Information sheets, put together by Cetus Research and Conservation, the Northern Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association and the Marine Education and Research Society, warn boaters to look out for signs that humpbacks are in the area.

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Among the tips:

• Be on the lookout for blows at all times.

• Use caution when travelling at high speed.

• Ask marinas where humpbacks have been seen and reduce speed in those areas.

• If other boats are flying a flag depicting a whale tail, it means whales are nearby.

Humpbacks, which are moving back into Vancouver Island waters after being hunted almost to extinction, can surface unpredictably after dives of more than 15 minutes and often seem unaware of boats.

However, their blows can be two metres high and seen from a distance.

Last month, a Campbell River man was left with facial injuries and bumps and bruises after his boat collided with a humpback.

Humpbacks, which are listed as threatened, started returning to the area in 2004 and are now appearing regularly in Juan de Fuca Strait and farther north.

Any collisions should immediately be reported to the Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine mammal incident reporting line at 1-800-465-4336.

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