Warning: do not swim with whales
Whale watchers were warned yesterday not to swim with the animals or let their boats get too close.
Sarah Manuel, a government senior marine conservation officer, said: “Watching these majestic animals, spouting, breaching or swimming along slowly with a calf is a thrilling experience.
“While well-meaning boaters and swimmers may not intend to be intrusive, getting too close to the whales can actually disrupt feeding, nursing and migrating behaviours, and boats, in particular, can cause unintended injuries to the whale.
“Furthermore, while it might be very tempting to get up close and even get in the water with these amazing animals, they are wild animals and can be unpredictable, particularly if perturbed.”
She was speaking after the Government said it had received an increased number of reports of people getting into the water to swim alongside whales.
But experts warned whales can be unpredictable if disturbed, and that boats that got too close could distress or injure them.
The season from mid-March to the end of April is the peak time for humpback whales to be spotted around Bermuda.
Ms Manuel said: “They swim through our waters on their journey from their breeding grounds in the Caribbean to their feeding grounds on the eastern seaboard of North America, and for some as far north as Greenland and Iceland.”
It is an offence to disturb or harass a humpback whale.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that people should not chase a whale if it tried to leave the area.
Experts said that signs a whale was agitated or no longer interested in staying near a vessel may include:
• Regular changes in travelling direction or speed of swimming
• Hasty dives
• Changes in respiration patterns
• Increased time spent diving compared with time spent at the surface
• Changes in acoustic behaviour
• Certain surface behaviours such as tail slapping or trumpet blows
• Repetitive diving
• Guidelines for whale watching can be found at https://environment.bm/whale-watching-guidelines