There are strict guidelines when it comes to watching whales in Canadian and US waters. We take these regulations very seriously so as not to influence the behaviour of marine mammals in any way. We want to respect the fact that these are wild animals and remain impartial observers. Current regulation requires that all vessels (including whale watchers, recreational boaters and even kayakers) maintain a 100-metre buffer zone, although that distance can vary. Orcas, for example, require a 200-metre zone.
Whales are wild animals and they don’t know the rules. If the whales turn toward a boat, the captain makes every reasonable effort to slowly back up out of their way. If a whale unexpectedly surfaces near a boat—as sometimes happens—the engine is turned off or put into neutral, if safe to do so, until the whale has passed.