Churchill exempt from whale watching distance limits

Churchill has been fighting since February to not have a distance limit between whales and whale watching boats and they found out earlier this month that the fight was successful.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) had proposed amendments to the Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act, which would have restricted boats from getting closer than 100 metres to a whale.

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On Feb. 11, residents of Churchill came together to speak about the amendments and to explain why they shouldn’t take effect in Churchill. Arguments included the fact that boat operators have been operating around whales for years and have passed knowledge down through the generations, and that they know what they’re doing. It was also pointed out that the Churchill River is too small to have such a distance limit. Residents were hoping for a limit lower than 50 metres.

On June 3 the Town of Churchill posted a public notice on their Facebook page stating that the proposed amendments would not be taking effect in Churchill. “Mayor and Council are pleased to advise the community that as a result of our collective lobbying efforts, Federal Minister Shelley Glover informed the community that the regulations will not take effect and therefore there will be no changes.”

Frank Stanek, manager of media relations for DFO, says the decision was based on feedback they received after consultations about the need to protect marine mammals while providing the right opportunities for tourism and ensuring that operators were not penalized. “No further action is planned at this time, and no amendments will be brought in without further input from the tourism sector and other key stakeholders.” At this time Stanek says the feedback is being reviewed.

The Nickel Belt News contacted the Town of Churchill for comment, but calls were not returned by press time.

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