Friday, February 22

Whale-Watching is Booming in Pacific Northwest, but All Boats Must Keep 200 Yards Away

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As the old saying goes, timing is everything. Take a look at the picture above. Everyone on the boat is looking ahead or off to starboard, searching for a whale,  while an orca is jumping out of the water, as if seeking their attention, off  to port. Maybe next time…

In any direction, whale watching in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands is booming. In fact, some 400,000 people last year climbed on whale-watching boats from 20 ports in the area, despite federal restrictions enacted in 2011 requiring all boats to stay at least 200 yards (two football fields) away from the whales.

The problem is that the orca whale population in Puget Sound is down to only 76 whales, a 30-year low. Humpback whales are making a comeback in the area, and there is a healthy population of transient orcas. But all whales react negatively to boat noise, and the 200-yard limit is intended to keep boats far enough away so that boat noise won’t bother them. (It also keeps boats from running into the whales, which does happen.)

“We have to protect the orca whale from our own stupidity,” one state senator told the Seattle Times. He plans to introduce legislation to fund a dedicated whale-watching enforcement boat with two officers during the peak summer and fall seasons to protect the whales. Read more:



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