With the boating season underway, Lifeforce Ocean Friends is reminding everyone on the water that safe distances keep both marine mammals and people free from harm.
Humpback, gray and Orca whales can be seen in Washington and British Columbia waters and federal law prohibits harassing the whales by getting too close or chasing them.
“The one place not to be is in the path of whales,” according to Lifeforce Whale Wise guidelines. In U.S. waters, boaters in the path of oncoming whales need to stay a minimum of 400 yards away; boaters need to maintain a 200-yard distance at all times, about the distance of two football fields. While these guidelines are not yet mandatory in Canadian waters they are recommended.
Lifeforce recommends staying clear of bait balls and seabird activity, as these are areas where whales can be feeding. “Remember, a whale can be the size of a bus. They can breach at any time,” the guidelines state. Humpbacks can “lunge feed,” coming straight out of the water.
“When you see a blow, you should stop,” rather than pursue the animals, Lifeforce recommends. Whales can dive for long periods and surface where you don’t expect them. Propellers can cause severe and life-threatening wounds.
Report harassment, stranded or injured whales to the National Marine Fisheries Service at 800/853-1964 in the U.S. or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at 800/465-4336.