An industry group of whale watching businesses has adopted new guidelines to keep endangered whales, including orcas and humpbacks, safer around commercial and private boats in the Salish Sea.
The Pacific Whale Watch Association has 32 members in Washington state and British Columbia, including San Juan Cruises of Bellingham, Victoria Clipper in Seattle, and Anacortes Kayak Tours.
"We spend more collective time on the water than another other group and we are committed to seeing whale populations thrive," said Jeff Friedman, president of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, in a press release.
The new guidelines include:
- a "slow zone" of 7 knots within 1 kilometer of whales,
- staying 200 yards from Southern Resident killer whales, which are endangered,
- limiting viewing time to one hour in the vicinity of a group of whales
- or 30 minutes if three are 10 or more vessels within 1 kilometer.
The guidelines are more stringent than rules established by the U.S. and B.C. provincial governments, Friedman said..
The group also suggests boaters should travel in the same direction as the whales, and at the whale's speed or slower. Also, all sonar, depth sounders and fish finders should be shut off when the boats are near whales.
Studies have shown that noise pollution from commercial and military operations can have an adverse effect on many marine mammals, which rely on echolocation for socialization and food gathering.