Diver Fined CAD 9,000 For Swimming Too Close to Orcas
According to Canada's Marine Mammal Regulations, it is illegal to swim, dive or interact with marine mammals.
A scuba diver in British Columbia, Canada, has been fined a record 12,000 Canadian dollars ($9,250) for approaching a pod of orcas too closely.
In British Columbia, vessels must keep at least 200 meters away from orcas and in southern B.C. coastal waters between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet, vessels must keep 400 meters away. Vessels must be at least 100 meters away from all other cetaceans.
According to the department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the diver, Thomas Gould, "knowingly interacted" with a pod of seven Northern resident orcas in the area in April 2020. The pod of orcas involved in the incident has been returning to the Prince Rupert area every year for at least 10 years, to the point that signs have been put up warning boaters to keep well clear.
DFO said evidence collected by fishery officers established that Gould's dive vessel had attempted to motor ahead of the pod several times, a practice known as “leap-frogging.” Gould, in full dive gear, was also found to have entered the water twice close to the killer whales, according to a Newsweek report.
Orcas are protected under the Species At Risk Act and the Marine Mammal Regulations of Canada's Fisheries Act in Canada and the steep fine comes as part of DFO's measures to preserve and restore orca populations in the waters off Canada.