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They watch whales for a living and now plan to change the rules

Whale watch group adopts new rules for ecotourism

The Pacific Whale Watch Association, which includes 32 companies in Washington and British Columbia, has adopted vessel operation guidelines it says will better protect killer whales and humpbacks in the Salish Sea.
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The Pacific Whale Watch Association, which includes 32 companies in Washington and British Columbia, has adopted vessel operation guidelines it says will better protect killer whales and humpbacks in the Salish Sea.

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.

A pod of Bigg's killer whales try to hunt down a Steller sea lion off Speiden Island in northwest Washington, until a group of sea lions comes to its rescue.

Jack, a rescue dog with Conservation Canines, trains for the first day on a boat in the Puget Sound to track feces of endangered killer whales for scientific research. He is a part of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washin

A Bigg's (transient) killer whale mother was caught on video teaching her two calves how to hunt Tuesday, May 16, 2017 off San Juan Island, Washington.

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