We tread lightly

Seeing whales and other marine wildlife in their natural environment is a thrilling experience. At Eagle Wing Tours, we’re always respectful that we’re visiting them in their home. Responsible whale watching means keeping our distance, approaching slowly, and making as little noise as possible. We don’t want to disrupt the natural behaviours we’re hoping to see, cause unnecessary stress, or risk injury to the animals.

We follow world-class viewing guidelines

We’re an active member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA), a collective of whale watching and ecotourism businesses in the region dedicated to conservation, education and responsible whale and wildlife viewing. Learn more about the Pacific Whale Watch Association

The PWWA’s science-based viewing guidelines—among the most comprehensive in the world—outline distance and viewing protocols, establish speed limits, restrict use of sonar, and create clear corridors for whales to travel. The guidelines were created in cooperation with government agencies and NGOs in Canada and the US and are regularly adjusted to reflect the newest and best available science.

Be Whale Wise

The PWWA guidelines complement the widely used “Be Whale Wise” guidelines for safe and responsible wildlife viewing. The guidelines and laws vary between Canada and the US, and between private vessels and commercial whale watch vessels. Our company does not view the endangered southern resident killer whales. Because commercial whale watchers are professional observers, we’ve been granted special permission to view Bigg’s killer whales slightly closer than private vessels. Learn more about the Be Whale Wise guidelines here.

We’re steered by science

Reducing our impact on the marine environment is an ongoing priority. Our vessels incorporate the latest marine technology to minimize underwater sound, boat wake and shoreline erosion. Research shows that vessel speed is the most important predictor of underwater noise levels. Additional factors may include propeller type, engine horsepower and age, machinery noise and hull characteristics.

In 2017, we became the first marine ecotourism company in the region to voluntarily have company vessels tested for noise emission levels. The project, conducted by JASCO Applied Sciences in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, investigated the sound footprints of whale watching and small pleasure vessels in the Salish Sea. Science-based knowledge is always the first step. We continue to make improvements and are hopeful that promising new hybrid technologies will help us meet our long-term goals.

Whale warning flag. Photo courtesy of MERS

We’re sentinels for the whales

We take our role as sentinels on the water very seriously. It’s our responsibility to set an example for other vessels in the area, and to ensure they too are operating safely and respectfully around marine wildlife. Studies show that the number of vessels and boating infractions around whales decrease when professional whale watchers are flying the whale warning flag (see above).

When flown from a vessel, the whale warning flag indicates to all boaters that whales are nearby. Boaters should always reduce speed and proceed with caution. Or stop and enjoy the spectacle from a distance, following the guidelines outlined above!

Our captains routinely notify private boaters, ferries, cargo ships, cruise ships and military vessels when whales are nearby so that they can alter course or slow down, or both. By all working together, we can help ensure that everyone can enjoy happy and healthy whales now and in the future!

We’re certified internationally

We’re a certified member of the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA). What does this mean? It recognizes that Eagle Wing Tours operates to the highest international standards of care for local wildlife, sustainability and customer experience.

The WCA is the world’s largest marine conservation partnership involving whale watch tour operators, NGOs, scientists and educators—all focused on respectful, responsible and sustainable whale watching tourism. Certification is overseen by an international panel with specialist knowledge.

And there’s more! Together with all of our WCA partners, we’re contributing tens of thousands of dollars back to whale and dolphin conservation projects around the world through our certification fee

Learn more about the World Cetacean Alliance

Eagle Wing Tours is a brilliant example of how whale watching can be operated in a considered, low-impact way providing the highest quality of onboard education while putting the protection of our planet at the heart of its business. We’re incredibly proud to have awarded such an outstanding company with the WCA Responsible Whale Watching Certification.

—    Sophie Lewis, Head of Programmes, World Cetacean Alliance