Responsible Whale Watching

Commitment to Responsible Whale Watching

Five Star Whale Watching believes in Responsible & Respectful Whale Watching and is a proud member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA). We follow all Be Whale Wise Guidelines and promote ethical and responsible Whale Watching practises. Over the past 30 plus years, we have been instrumental in the establishment of best practice whale & wildlife watching to ensure minimum disturbance to marine life. As a founding member of the Pacific Whale Watching Association Five Star has been a pioneer in promoting Responsible & respectful whale watching.

Keys to Respectful Whale Watching

We follow best practices guidelines for whale & wildlife viewing. Five Star Whale Watching is 100% committed to protecting our Marine Environment and education the public. We believe responsible and respectful Whale Watching is a key part of that protection and education as it creates strong ambassadors for environmental stewardship. As one of the longest running & respected Whale Watching & Eco-Tour operator we have taken several steps to minimize our impact on Wildlife including:

  1. Low noise/Whale Friendly propulsion – The Arneson Drive system we use has been found in several studies to have the lowest underwater noise signature.
  2. Low Sulphur Eco-Diesel Engines & modern low emission Four Stroke engines.
  3. Keeping our vessels well maintained in order to reduce our environmental impact.
  4. Following the mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Replenish, Restore in our daily operations.
  5. Follow and often exceed the Best Practice Guidelines for Whale & Wildlife viewing.
  6. We will not get closer than is responsible just so a guest can get the so called “money shot”.
  7. Be mindful that we are visitors to the marine world and be respectful & responsible during our encounters with the various marine life.
  8. We are proud to be Victoria’s first World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) Certified Responsible Whale Watching Operator.
  9. We fly the Whale Warning Flag on all our vessels to warn other boaters are in the area.
  10. We are part of the Whale Reporting Network that provides alerts to commercial vessels that Whales are in the area and to slow down. The data also is used for research purposes. 

Best Practice Guidelines


A vessel shall approach an area of known or suspected whale activity with extreme caution.

A vessel within 1 km or 0.65 mile of a whale is considered to be in the vicinity of whales and is required to abide by all of these Best Practices Guidelines as are relevant.

If a vessel operator is unaware of the whales’ location he/she must maintain a vigilant watch for whales at all times. Mere observation of whale watching vessels in the distance does not fulfill this responsibility, as individual whale may be encountered anywhere and at any time.

Maintaining a vigilant watch often includes significant speed reductions.

A vessel within the vicinity of whales – within 1 km (0.65 mile) of a whale – is considered to be in the slow zone and must operate at no more than 7 knots. This reduced speed zone shall also be observed when disengaging the vicinity of whales as well.

As the vessel approaches, the distribution of whales and the positioning of other viewing vessels should be surveyed. Communication with other member vessels is strongly encouraged at this point (on the designated marine radio frequencies).

A vessel shall limit its time in the vicinity of a particular group of whales on any one tour to 60 minutes.

Vessels should limit the amount of viewing time to a maximum of 30 minutes in the vicinity of whales on days when there are more than 9 PWWA vessels within 1 km of that particular group of whales. On these occasions vessels should spend more of their tour observing other marine wildlife in other locations and searching for other groups of whales.

1. When whales are within 1/2 mile of shore, vessels should maintain a seaward position and not within 1/8 mile (220 yards) of any shoreline that the whales are traveling along.

2. All sonar, depth sounders, fish finders and other underwater transducers should be shut off whenever a vessel is in the vicinity of whales.



The Pacific Whale Watch Association has worked collaboratively with all stakeholders and the Canadian Government in the development of these Best Practices Guidelines for the Race Rocks Marine Protected Area, which apply equally to all vessels, whether commercial or private, whether intending to view wildlife of otherwise transiting the area.

Vessels will allow for a speed transition by slowing their approach to Race Rocks such that speed at 1/8th mile (220 yards) from any rock or landmass is reduced to minimal wake and wash, relative to the condition of the sea state at the particular time. This Go Slow Zone extends 1/8th mile (220 yards) around every rock and landmass in the Race Rocks area.

Vessels in the Go Slow Zone will remain as close to mid-channel as is practicable between the major rock outcroppings know as North Race Rock, West Race Rock and Helicopter Rock. While in the Go Slow Zone vessels will transit the area with the current whenever conditions are suitable to do so.

Vessels exiting the area will allow for a speed transition.

Vessels will remain outside all of the Go Slow Zone whenever Resident, Transient or Offshore Killer Whales are present in the Go Slow Zone.


Vessels will remain a minimum of 1⁄2 mile (880 yards) from the light beacon of the Light House at Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island when whales are in the vicinity.

Vessels will remain a minimum of 1⁄4 mile (440 yards) from the main shoreline of the west side of San Juan Island when between Mitchell Point to Cattle Point (facing south).

Our aim is always to view any marine life respectfully and responsibly, we are visitors to their world!