Being Whale Wise: The Effectiveness of Whale Watching Guidelines in Johnstone Strait, British Columbia

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Walker, Robyn

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Johnstone Strait, British Columbia, Canada is home to several groups of northern resident killer whales (Orcinus orca), which also makes it a prime tourist destination for whale watching. Boat traffic through the strait averages at least 13 vessels an hour, consisting of both private and commercial vessels. Currently, a set of voluntary marine mammal viewing guidelines is in place to help regulate the behavior of these vessels near the whales, however it is unclear how effective these guidelines actually are in promoting responsible wildlife viewing in Johnstone Strait. This study was undertaken to determine the effectiveness of this voluntary code, and was conducted using both land-based and boat-based observations. For twelve days during July and August 2009, observations were conducted from a cliff-top vantage point tracking vessel traffic, whale presence and activity, vessel interactions with whales, and incidents in which the guidelines were not adhered to. Additionally, data from Straitwatch, a marine monitoring and stewardship program in Johnstone Strait, were used to supplement the land-based observations. Straitwatch collected similar data from their outreach vessels, during July, August and September from 2007 to 2009. From this data, it was found that the number of incidents between vessels and whales did not show any sign of decrease, and adherence to the voluntary guidelines is still relatively low. This study serves to examine the effectiveness of the voluntary program, and recommendations are made on how to increase education and awareness of these guidelines.


Master's project


Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences




whale watching, voluntary guidelines, killer whales, tourism



Walker, Robyn (2010). Being Whale Wise: The Effectiveness of Whale Watching Guidelines in Johnstone Strait, British Columbia. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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