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An educational kit
for the observation of marine mammals at risk
Whale-watching cruse
Guide naturalists encourage people to think about the conservation of marine species at risk by helping them to discover their status, fragility and the threats they face.

Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé

Marine observation activities in the St. Lawrence represent a flourishing industry. In 2008, nearly 600,000 visitors—20% of whom were international tourists—took part in whale-watching activities in Quebec. This being said, disturbance by watercraft can be a source of stress for marine mammals and affect the recovery of species at risk. To raise public awareness about good practices for marine mammal observation, the Réseau d’observation de mammifères marins (ROMM) has developed an educational kit on marine mammals at risk.

This kit consists of a case containing various educational items, including an interpretation binder and information sheets on marine mammals as well as on seabirds, fish, marine invertebrates, the islands of the St. Lawrence, the history of the area and landscape interpretation. Figurines of whales, seals and sharks are accompanied by whale baleen specimens and krill samples. All these accessories are greatly appreciated by the public since they provide opportunities to see and touch.

Promoting good practices

The explanations provided in the kit encourage observers at sea to adopt adequate behaviour. On the water, these good practices mean observing speed limits, distance limits, and restrictions on the angle of approach and the concentration of vessels. The practices apply to all types of commercial vessels and pleasure craft, including personal watercraft, kayaks and sailboats. Respectful approach manoeuvres will help prevent adverse effects on species at risk such as the beluga whale, the blue whale, the fin whale and the North Atlantic right whale.

Although we may feel that a single disturbance of these whales is not serious, we have to remember that whale watching cruises and other observation activities occur repeatedly in the same areas and thus, involve the same animals. The cumulative impact of disturbances in areas like the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence where marine mammals feed, rest or give birth can reduce their capacity over the course of the summer to store the energy reserves they need to reproduce successfully and survive during periods when feeding is reduced. 

The members of the Réseau d’observation des mammifères marins have received the educational kit and are thus aware of good marine observation behaviours. This network is composed of cruise ship operators and excursionists as well as ferry services and marine carriers and, of course, conservation parks.

Funding to produce the educational kit on marine mammals at risk in the St. Lawrence was provided by the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, which is managed jointly by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Parks Canada.

Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk

Réseau d’observation de mammifères marins (French)

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