A whale watching guide has been ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and complete community service for venturing too close to a humpback whale near Prince Rupert – marking the first conviction under new federal marine protection laws.
According to the Department of Fisheries, Scott Babcock was on a boat in the Work Channel when he approached a North Pacific humpback whale at a distance of less than 100 metres on July 19, 2018. He was initially spotted in the channel, located roughly 50 kilometres north of Prince Rupert, by conservation fishery officers on patrol in an unmarked vessel.
Babcock was found guilty and handed down his sentence in August in a provincial courtroom in Prince Rupert.
This is the first conviction under the Fisheries Act since officials amended the Marine Mammal Regulations in 2018, after calls by researchers and advocates to better protect whales facing dwindling populations.
Under the regulations, people – including whale watching companies – must stay 100 metres away from whales, dolphins and porpoises and 200 metres away when those marine mammals are rested or accompanied by a calf.
People must keep a minimum distance of 200 metres from killer whales within the Pacific Ocean.
The North Pacific humpback whale was deemed a threatened species in 2005.