Tag Archives: Soundwatch

Feds get serious about the effects of whale watching

The idea of regulating whale watching around killer whales, particularly in the San Juan Islands, has gotten a lot of attention the past few years.

First, San Juan County approved an ordinance in 2007 that required boaters to stay back 100 yards from the whales. That was followed by a state law in 2008. Now, the federal government proposes to turn their longstanding 100-yard “guidelines” into a 200-foot enforceable rule. See my story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

I first wrote about the concerns of whale watching nine years ago — before the whales were listed under the Endangered Species Act. (See my story from July 2, 2000.) I think it is safe to say — and Kari Koski of Soundwatch confirms this — boaters have generally gotten more responsible, particularly commercial whale-watch operators based in the U.S.

This is a complex issue, in part because the killer whales themselves are complex creatures with a high level of intelligence. Trying to rebuild a population of killer whales is nothing like rebuilding a population of salmon. I could say a lot more about that, but instead I’ll make a few observations about the federal action.
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