Up to $500,000 fine and potential jail time for feeding seals

Changes to the Marine Mammal Regulations make it illegal to feed seals

Participating in one of Oak Bay’s well-loved traditions can now land you a hefty fine and potential jail time. Changes to Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations this week make it illegal to feed the seals down at Oak Bay Marina – or anywhere else.

File video filmed prior to amendments to Marine Mammal Regulations.

“The health of our marine environment is of paramount importance to the Oak Bay Marine Group and while feeding marine mammals has long been a pastime of locals and tourists from around the world, the Oak Bay Marina – where so many visitors and residents come to see the seals – is no longer allowing guests to feed them,” said Brook Castelsky, chief operating officer for Oak Bay Marine Group.

While there were previously recommendations in place to protect marine mammals by prohibited the disturbance of them, a lack of clear definition made enforcement difficult. The new changes, published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, more clearly define “disturb” and are now enforceable under the Fisheries Act. Those who break the rules could face penalties of $100,000 to $500,000. Repeat offences could result in jail time, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Oak Bay Marine Group is in full support of the recent amendments that now prohibit the feeding of marine mammals.

“While some Oak Bay Marina guests may be disappointed, this change in the regulations is positive and we encourage everyone to take the time to understand why this can no longer continue,” said Castelsky.

Seals aren’t the only ones getting added protection under the new regulations.

The new rules will require boaters to maintain a 100-metre buffer zone for most whales, dolphins, and porpoises, and a 200-metre buffer zone for orcas.

The new amendments define “disturb” as approaching a marine mammal to, or to attempt to, feed it; swim with it or interact with it; move it or entice or cause it to move from the immediate vicinity in which it is found; separate it from members of its group or go between it and a calf; trap it or its group between a vessel and the shore or between a vessel and one or more other vessels; or tag or mark it.

RELATED: Whale watch body wants closer access to other orcas as feds set 200-metre limit

keri.coles@oakbaynews.com

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